WASHINGTON – In March 2019, small business Adranos was the grand prize winner of the first U.S. Army xTechSearch prize competition winning more than a total of $330,000 in cash prizes, for their high-performance solid rocket fuel, ALITEC, and its potential impact on rocket performance. Their xTech win was an entry point to the Army, and ever since the business has been improving their products and expanding their footprint.
Adranos was co-founded in 2015 by Chris Stoker, CEO, and Brandon Terry, CTO; their mission is to expand America’s solid rocket motor supply base and to extend the range and performance of national security and space launch systems. Specifically, Adranos designs and manufactures solid rocket motors for multiple applications, including tactical missiles, projectiles, hypersonics and more.
In addition to traditional, aluminized solid rocket motors, Adranos also manufactures propulsion systems that feature ALITEC, their next-generation rocket fuel. ALITEC releases more energy per unit, which extends missile range, payload capacity and speed to target. ALITEC-fueled motors can be drop-in replacements to existing missiles, which means that the entire missile system does not need to be overhauled because the solid rocket motor can simply be swapped out.
xTech is led by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and launched xTechSearch, their flagship prize competition series, in 2018. Adranos was ready to present ALITEC-fueled motors as an alternative that could revolutionize rocket operations for the Army.
“xTech gave our solution the opportunity to leap off the page, put ALITEC in a rocket, and show people how our solution can work for the Army,” Stoker said. “The prize money enabled us to scale up the technology, and we’re now using ALITEC in rockets that are 10 times the size of what we did for xTechSearch.”
Since their award as the winner of xTech’s inaugural competition, Adranos has received contracts through the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and the Army, and several commercial customers. Adranos expanded their business by proving that they can manufacture high volumes of large diameter solid rocket motors and by demonstrating that ALITEC-fueled systems can significantly increase the capability of tactical-sized missile platforms. In May 2021, under a joint Air Force and Navy-funded effort, Adranos successfully completed a large-scale test of an ALTIEC-fueled motor with a 9-inch propellant grain. Since then, Adranos has completed more than 100 static fire tests of ALITEC and traditionally fueled solid rocket motors of various diameters.
Adranos aims to manufacture thousands of solid rocket motors per year. To achieve this goal, Adranos expanded their physical footprint with the opening of two new facilities: a 450-acre munitions manufacturing facility in coastal Mississippi where they produce solid rocket motors, and an ALITEC manufacturing facility in West Lafayette, Indiana. The fuel production site in Indiana can produce 50,000 kilograms of ALITEC per year, a scale large enough to meet the needs of multiple defense programs.
“Not only can we solve the problem of rocket range, but we can also solve the supply problem for the U.S. military with our solid rocket motor facilities,” Stoker said. “This is an example of an emergent solution that comes out of companies like ours getting a start from programs like xTech.”
Since their beginning in 2015 and their xTech win in 2019, Adranos has grown from two to 35 employees, operates two manufacturing facilities, and is planning to expand their workforce in the coming year. The team credits the xTech Program as a driver of their expansion and ability to produce both ALITEC and traditionally-fueled rocket motors on a scale required by the military.
“Our xTech win allowed us to prove our capabilities early on,” Stoker said. “As a result, we’re solving real problems for the military and experiencing rapid company growth.”
For more information on the xTech Program and upcoming competition opportunities, visit their website at www.xtechsearch.army.mil.
The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, go to https://www.xtechsearch.army.mil/.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology provides the American Soldier with a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world's finest equipment and services, and by leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Army needs.