Defence technologies supplier X-Bow Systems is set to deliver its Pathfinder I to the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Edwards, California, this month.  

Pathfinder I, also known as Rocket Factory In-a-Box (RFIB), is a mobile energetics factory demonstration unit.

The unit has been developed as part of AFRL’s Eternal Quiver Program, which seeks to develop a new approach to manufacturing a solid rocket motor (SRM) in a small footprint.

The team at X-Bow partnered with the AFRL’s in-house team to fast-track the development of a rocket propulsion system for air-launched missiles.

Pathfinder I is the result of the partnership. It is a low-cost mobile containerised SRM production capability that uses an additive manufacturing approach.

AFRL Rocket Lab Rocket Propulsion Division chief Dr Shawn Phillips said: “I look forward to our continued collaboration with X-Bow Systems and witnessing their technology change and modernise how we manufacture solid rocket motors.

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“We eagerly look forward to receiving the world’s first Rocket Factory In-a-Box Pathfinder and evaluating the amazing potential this technology brings to our mission.”

“This demonstration unit will allow us to redefine what solid rocket motor production means in the 21st century.”

Capable of operating in a small footprint, Pathfinder I increases flexibility in manufacturing and fielding rockets.

The new approach addresses limitations related to design and delays in manufacturing SRMs.

X-Bow System RFIB programme manager Jill Marsh said: “Over the next several years, X-Bow aims to work together with AFRL to identify projects and technologies to evolve the Pathfinder I capability for use in defence and other applications.”