DOD provides a further $1.5M to develop a 3D-printed hypersonic engine

New Frontier Aerospace aims to develop a hypersonic, vertical landing aircraft that is 10 times faster than today's jets - with net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Jijo Malayil
NFA's Mjölnir engine
NFA's Mjölnir engine

A quest for new hypersonic engines that can power advanced weaponry has led the Department of Defence to extend its contract with New Frontier Aerospace (NFA) to further the development of its 3D-printed Mjölnir rocket engine. A further grant of $1.5M by the National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) comes after the Seattle-based firm successfully delivered Mjölnir's first component, developed under an initial $750K contract awarded in August of 2021.

NSIC is a DoD program funding early-stage hardware startups commercializing dual-use technologies critical to US national security and economic competitiveness. 

"Based on NFA's performance in designing, 3D printing, and testing the first key component of the Mjölnir full-flow staged combustion engine in less than a year, we are pleased NSIC sees the enormous potential in the continued development and completion of Mjölnir," NFA CEO Bill Bruner said in a blog post.

NFA was launched in 2020 with a vision to develop a "hypersonic, renewably fueled, vertical landing aircraft that can deliver passengers and urgent cargo anywhere on the planet 10x faster than today's jets - with net zero greenhouse gas emissions," according to the company website. 

An advanced architecture that provides a revolutionary product

The firm's 3D-printed design runs full­-flow staged combustion, which features fully vaporized propellants before they mix, and a high thrust-to-weight ratio, making it an efficient choice for a wide range of applications. According to the firm, its advanced architecture "offers a new class of rocket engine with the reliability and operability of today's aircraft engines." Its engines are designed to run on renewably sourced liquid natural gas, with net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Such architecture makes it ideal for hypersonic aircraft, upper stages, maneuvering spacecraft, and planetary landers. With the extended support NSIC, Mjölnir's remaining components will be "designed, printed and tested - with a hot fire of the completed engine by May of 2024."

A step closer to its hypersonic aircraft

The firm believes that the development of its Mjölnir rocket engine will serve as the cornerstone for NFA's "overall plan to build a hypersonic aircraft for delivering passengers and cargo safely to any airport or vertiport on Earth in less than two hours."

NFA has also recently entered into a cooperative technology agreement with Qosmosys of Singapore to develop technology options for the latter's ZeusX Moon lander, "in particular the main propulsion sub-system based on its revolutionary Mjolnir engine."

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