ROCKET SCIENCE
DLR is developing a reusable rocket engine for launching small satellites
by Staff Writers
Bonn, Germany (SPX) Nov 20, 2018

Central components of the rocket engine developed at the DLR Institute of Structures and Design are the 3D printed injector head and the ceramic combustion chamber.

Whether alone or in a constellation, small satellites weighing from just a few kilograms (nanosatellites) up to several hundred kilograms (micro- and minisatellites) are becoming increasingly technologically sophisticated and have the potential to fundamentally change the space industry.

n the coming years, hundreds of such small satellites will be carried into Earth orbit. As part of the EU project SMILE (Small Innovative Launcher for Europe), researchers from the Institute of Structures and Design at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have developed a reusable rocket engine especially for launching such satellites, and have performed an initial series of successful trials on a test rig.

Small satellite launches - Independent, flexible and cost-effective
Until now, small satellites have tended to be carried into space aboard large rockets, if there is enough room for them. The primary aim of these flights is to place large satellites in a specific orbit. Small satellites take second place as far as timing and target orbit are concerned.

For this reason, 14 European research institutions and companies are working on designing an economical rocket launcher within the SMILE project. This should enable small satellites weighing up to 70 kilograms to be carried to near-Earth orbits. The project focuses on the technology required for propulsion, on-board electronics and cost-effective production.

3D printing as a success factor
The rocket engine, developed by DLR scientists specifically for this application, consists of two central components - the metal injector head and the ceramic combustion chamber. Belgian project partner 3D Systems manufactured the prototype injector out of a nickel-chromium alloy using metal 3D printing. 3D printing is an additive process. Digital design data is used to build up or rather print the desired structure in layers by depositing material.

"Thanks to this relatively new manufacturing technology, we need significantly fewer parts and process steps, which speeds up the manufacturing process for the injector and reduces production costs. At the same time, we have been able to significantly reduce the mass of the components, which is always a very important factor in aerospace applications," says Markus Kuhn, responsible for the project at the DLR Institute of Structures and Design in Stuttgart.

Combustion chamber made of high-performance ceramics
The researchers used a special high-performance material for the combustion chamber - a carbon fibre-reinforced ceramic that consists mainly of silicon carbide and was developed primarily at the DLR institute in Stuttgart. It is particularly well-suited for high-temperature applications and reliably withstands even extreme temperature changes.

"Reusability was an important consideration in development. If the entire system can be used multiple times, operating costs are significantly reduced, making commercial implementation attractive to companies," says Ilja Muller, Rocket Propulsion Systems Engineer at the Institute of Structures and Design.

First tests passed with flying colours
In hot firing tests in September 2018, the team led by DLR researcher Markus Kuhn subjected the rocket engine to an initial test run. It successfully completed a total of 18 tests at the high-pressure test bench of Spanish project partner PLD Space, with a firing time of up to 45 seconds, thereby showing very high combustion efficiency of over 90 percent. Liquid oxygen (LOx) and kerosene were used in the tests.


Related Links
Small Innovative Launcher for Europe
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

ROCKET SCIENCE
SPARC Research awarded contract for hypersonic airbreathing weapon propulsion
Warrenton, VA (SPX) Nov 19, 2018
SPARC Research has announced that they have received a contract from Draper to provide propulsion design and analysis support for a future hypersonic interceptor weapon. The concept is based on advanced airbreathing propulsion technologies enabling extended flight at speeds unachievable today. Hypersonic vehicles are a future class of weapons that travel at more than five times the speed of sound. By using an airbreathing engine the stored missile fuel is burned with atmospheric air instead ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

ROCKET SCIENCE
Poor weather delays US space cargo launch to Saturday

Space-inspired speed breeding for crop improvement

Zero G Kitchen prepares to launch its first appliance to Space

Orion recovery team: ready to 'rock and roll'

ROCKET SCIENCE
Rocket Lab announces $140 Million in new funding

Russia's Cargo Craft Blasts Off to Station for Sunday Delivery

Science on the cusp: sounding rockets head north

SpaceX launches communications satellite for Qatar on Falcon 9

ROCKET SCIENCE
Overflowing crater lakes carved canyons across Mars

For arid, Mars-like desert, rain brings death

NASA picks ancient Martian river delta for 2020 rover touchdown

How NASA will know when InSight touches down on Mars

ROCKET SCIENCE
China releases smart solution for verifying reliability of space equipment components

China unveils new 'Heavenly Palace' space station as ISS days numbered

China's space programs open up to world

China's commercial aerospace companies flourishing

ROCKET SCIENCE
Extended life for ESA's science missions

Space technology company to set up high-volume production of ultra-powerful LEO satellite platforms

SpaceX gets nod to put 12,000 satellites in orbit

ESA's 25 years of telecom: the beginning

ROCKET SCIENCE
New space industry emerges: on-orbit servicing

Space making the virtual a reality

Space Tango unveils ST-42 for scalable manufacturing in space for Earth-based applications

Electronic skin points the way north

ROCKET SCIENCE
New Arecibo message challenge announced

A cold Super-Earth just 6 light years away at Barnard's Star

Super-earth discovered orbiting the sun's famous stellar neighbor

Laser tech could be fashioned into Earth's 'porch light' to attract alien astronomers

ROCKET SCIENCE
Evidence for ancient glaciation on Pluto

SwRI team makes breakthroughs studying Pluto orbiter mission

ALMA maps temperature of Jupiter's icy moon Europa

NASA's Juno Mission Detects Jupiter Wave Trains