Project name:

SoboDart - Feasibility Study for the Development of a Suborbital Boosted Dart Vehicle

Coordinator: S.C. Electromecanica Ploiesti S.A.

Partner: Romanian Association for Space Technology and Industry (ROMSPACE)

Financed by the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Romanian Industry Incentive Scheme

Duration: 2017-2018

The SOBODART project is a study for an architecture of a new class of sounding rocket vehicles which would serve as the linchpin for the development of the Romanian aerospace industry, enabling not only the servicing of needs for internal and external clients, but enforcing also the potential for Romania to play host to launch activities. The project was funded by the European Space Agency and took place between 2017 and 2018, with ELMEC (Electromecanica Ploiesti) and ROMSPACE and involved a multidisciplinary effort not only geared towards rocketry, but also economics, market dynamics, business models and legislative framework for operations.

The resulting multifunctional boosted dart vehicle (MBDV) utilizes key elements which are less common in rocket design, but with enhancements which make it an interesting solution to perennial performance concerns. A boosted dart vehicle utilizes inertia to enable the rocket cone and the payload to reach higher altitudes than those of a conventional sounding rocket architecture.

While many configurations are possible, the project focused on one which fits into the existing stable of high altitude sounding rockets at the European Space Agency by focusing on two variants, both with a payload of 2 kilograms: MBDV-L for flights up to 65-70 km; MBDV-H for flights over 100 km (above Karman line).

The MBDV could be considered a platform for inflight verification of scientific innovations, especially in cases where no prior microgravity experience exists. The MBDV system could offer suborbital transport services for various commercial applications. The modular design allows fast reconfiguration of the vehicle in order to cover a wide range of missions within the given altitude envelopes. The project team performed an additional market study in which they concluded that this configuration allows a wide variety of payload types (and therefore rocket uses) while being competitive on cost and accessing a growing market. The system architecture is scalable for future development in accordance with market demand.

On December, 2019 a boosted dart vehicle was launched from Cape Midia using a solid rocket motor with double base propellant.
The total impulse of the motor was 2.7 kNs.
The boosted dart vehicle was launched from a rail-like launch pad. The propulsion and the overall vehicle flew nominally with the splashdown expected to have happen in the Black Sea.