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In space propulsion - 1

Development of new technologies for cryogenic rocket propulsion

New technologies for cryogenic rocket engines

Project duration: 2009 to 2012

Project leader: Prof. Pavel Ripka

Technical and project management: Dr. Vojtěch Petrucha

There were several topics solved in the scope of the In Space Propulsion - 1 project (ISP-1), covering the cryogenic space rocket propulsion – burning of the cryogenic propellants, material compatibility, tribology and embrittlement, heat accumulators and propellant electric pumps. Our group was responsible for sensor instrumentation for online and offline diagnostics of the propellant electric pump. The maximum power of the developed pump was around two kilowatts and it was designed for operation with liquid hydrogen and methane. However, the testing has been done with liquid nitrogen for security and economic reasons. Over 10 000 liters of liquid nitrogen were pumped during numerous tests of the pump. Specific electric motor, contact-less foil bearing, ball bearings, miniature sensors and pump hydraulics were the main topics of the development.

Complete test bench has been projected and built at the University of Liege in Belgium, it provided source and sink for all media, test control and monitoring. The task for CTU was to deliver all the sensors for the pump as well as the associated signal conditioning and provide high frequency data acquisition with online visualization and data storage for post-test inspection. Already proven control system at the University of Liege was modified and extended in order to provide all low frequency data acquisition (temperatures, pressures, flows) and overall test control.

The sensors on pump consist of several temperature sensors, pressure sensors for inlet and outlet pressure and internal pressures, shaft angular position and displacement sensors, vibration sensors, motor current feeding sensors and others. CTU in Prague developed and delivered complete analog signal processing modules customized to project requirements as well as system for data digitization and visualization based on NI platform (LabView, LabWindows).

Czech Technical University in Prague

CTU in Prague is the oldest technical university in the Czech republic. The Faculty of electrical engineering provides complete education in electrical and information technologies in bachelor, master and doctoral study programs. The faculty solves various practical problems for industrial segment as well as works on projects of fundamental and applied science with domestic and foreign financial support. Department of measurement is one of the seventeen departments of the faculty. It covers several groups with a specific focus, e.g. sensors generally, magnetic sensors, metrology, embedded systems, videometry, non-destructive testing, aircraft and space technologies and others.

What would you name as main benefits of the project to you and your company?

“Direct cooperation with company Snecma, the final assembler of rocket motors for Ariane program, manufacturer of satellite electric ion propulsion and thus a leader in the field of rocket propulsion, was the main benefit. We got familiar with various technologies, procedures and project management typical for this industrial segment, so the acquired experience is invaluable. Project meetings led us to various companies and institutions where they run the state of the art development in the space related hardware. Extreme requirements on quality and reliability of the deliverables as well as tight schedule and project administration were a big challenge for the team members. The acquired experience is used in the teaching of regular subjects, student supervision and while solving other projects at the Czech technical university in Prague.”