24/7 Space News
ROCKET SCIENCE
Self-eating rocket could help UK take a big bite of space industry
The concept of a self-eating rocket engine was first proposed and patented in 1938. However, no autophage engine designs were fired in a controlled manner until a research partnership between the University of Glasgow and Dnipro National University in Ukraine achieved this milestone in 2018.
ADVERTISEMENT
Self-eating rocket could help UK take a big bite of space industry
by Staff Writers
Glasgow, Scotland (SPX) Jan 10, 2024

New developments on a nearly century-old concept for a 'self-eating' rocket engine capable of flight beyond the Earth's atmosphere could help the UK take a bigger bite of the space industry.

University of Glasgow engineers have built and fired the first unsupported 'autophage' rocket engine which consumes parts of its own body for fuel.

The design of the autophage engine - the name comes from the Latin word for 'self-eating' - has several potential advantages over conventional rocket designs.

The engine works by using waste heat from combustion to sequentially melt its own plastic fuselage as it fires. The molten plastic is fed into the engine's combustion chamber as additional fuel to burn alongside its regular liquid propellants.

This means that an autophage vehicle would require less propellant in onboard tanks, and the mass freed up could be allocated to payload instead. The consumption of the fuselage could also help avoid adding to the problem of space debris - discarded waste that orbits the Earth and could hamper future missions.

Overall, the greater efficiency could help autophage rockets take a greater payload into space compared to a conventional rocket of the same mass. They could, for example, take tiny 'nanosatellites' into space directly without having to share space on more expensive conventionally-fuelled rockets.

The concept of a self-eating rocket engine was first proposed and patented in 1938. However, no autophage engine designs were fired in a controlled manner until a research partnership between the University of Glasgow and Dnipro National University in Ukraine achieved this milestone in 2018.

Now, with support from Kingston University, the Glasgow engineers have demonstrated that more energetic liquid propellants can be used, and that the plastic fuselage can withstand the forces required to feed it into the engine without buckling. These are essential steps in developing a viable flight concept.

The team's design developments are being showcased this week as a paper presented at the international AIAA SciTech Forum in Orlando, Florida.

In the paper, the team describe how they successfully test-fired their Ouroborous-3 autophage engine, producing 100 newtons of thrust in a series of controlled experiments. The test fires were conducted at the MachLab facility at Machrihanish Airbase.

The Ouroborous-3 uses high-density polyethylene plastic tubing as its autophagic fuel source, burning it alongside the rocket's main propellants - a mix of gaseous oxygen and liquid propane.

The tests showed that the Ourobourous-3 is capable of stable burn - a key requirement for any rocket engine - throughout the autophage stage, with the plastic fuselage supplying up to one-fifth of the total propellant used.

The tests also showed that the rocket's burn could be successfully controlled, with the team demonstrating its ability to be throttled, restarted and pulsed in an on/off pattern. All of these abilities could help future autophage rockets control their ascent from the launchpad into orbit.

Professor Patrick Harkness, of the University of Glasgow's James Watt School of Engineering, led the development of the Ourouboros-3 autophage engine. He said: "These results are a foundational step on the way to developing a fully-functional autophage rocket engine. Those future rockets could have a wide range of applications which would help advance the UK's ambitions to develop as a key player in the space industry.

"A conventional rocket's structure makes up between five and 12 percent of its total mass. Our tests show that the Ouroborous-3 can burn a very similar amount of its own structural mass as propellant. If we could make at least some of that mass available for payload instead, it would be a compelling prospect for future rocket designs."

Postgraduate researcher Krzysztof Bzdyk, of the James Watt School of Engineering, is the paper's corresponding author. He said: "Getting to this stage involved overcoming a lot of technical challenges but we're delighted by the performance of the Ourouboros-3 in the lab.

"From here, we'll begin to look at how we can scale up autophage propulsion systems to support the additional thrust required to make the design function as a rocket."

Development of the team's autophage engine will continue with the support of new funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and the Sciences and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The autophage engine is one of 23 space technology projects recently selected to share in Pounds 4m from UKSA and STFC. The Glasgow team received Pounds 290,000 to help establish further pilot testing of the prototype engine.

Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: "One of the key ways we catalyse investment into the UK's growing space sector is by backing innovations in emerging areas of space technology. The University of Glasgow's impressive work towards an autophage engine is an example of one which has great potential to meet the growing global appetite for developments in the efficiency and sustainability of rocket propulsion."

Jack Tufft, a postgraduate researcher at the James Watt School of Engineering, is a co-author of the paper. He said: "We're really excited by the potential of the Ouroboros-3, and this further funding will help us move forward with exploring new developments and refinements to our design. Our aim is to bring the autophage engine closer to a test launch, which will help us develop our design for future generations of autophage rockets."

The team's paper, titled 'Investigation of the Operating Parameters and Performance of an Autophage, Hybrid Rocket Propulsion System' will be presented at the AIAA SciTech Forum on Wednesday 10 January.

The research was supported by funding from the UK Ministry of Defence and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Research Report:Investigation of the Operating Parameters and Performance of an Autophage, Hybrid Rocket Propulsion System

Related Links
University of Glasgow
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

RELATED CONTENT
The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
ROCKET SCIENCE
Virgin Galactic sets January 2024 for 11th mission
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Dec 22, 2023
Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:SPCE) has officially announced the opening of its 'Galactic 06' flight window on January 26, 2024. This mission will mark the company's 11th spaceflight, following a year of remarkable achievements in human spaceflight, including six suborbital missions in just six months. The upcoming 'Galactic 06' flight is set to continue Virgin Galactic's pioneering journey into space tourism. This mission will feature four private astronauts, hailing from diverse backgroun ... read more

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ROCKET SCIENCE
Ax-3: A Step Forward in Long-Duration Space Missions with Advanced Tech Experiments

Voyager Space and Airbus forge new path with Starlab Space LLC Joint Venture

Revolutionizing Space Habitats: Aurelia Institute's TESSERAE for Biotech Studies

Starliner parachute system upgrade tested before crewed flight

ROCKET SCIENCE
SpaceX completes second launch Sunday, sends more satellites into orbit

China's Gravity 1 sets record for solid rocket fuels in maiden launch

Rocket maker working on medium-lift model

Self-eating rocket could help UK take a big bite of space industry

ROCKET SCIENCE
Water may have flowed through Martian Valleys countless times

Potential solvents identified for building on Moon and Mars

HERA Mission: NASA's 45-Day Mars Simulation to Study Human Responses

NASA's CHAPEA mission reaches 200-Day milestone in Mars Analog Study

ROCKET SCIENCE
Tianxing 1B satellite launched by Kuaizhou 1A to conduct space environment survey

Tianzhou 6 cargo spacecraft to return to Earth

Tianzhou 7 mission set to enhance operations at China's Tiangong Space Station

China begins 2024 with key Kuaizhou 1A satellite launch

ROCKET SCIENCE
MEASAT Partners with SpaceX as Official Reseller for Starlink Services in Key Markets

Iridium announces Project Stardust for Global, Standards-Based IoT Connectivity

Wiseband and Rivada Space Networks join forces for Middle Eastern network expansion

First Batch of Starlink Satellites for Direct-to-Cell Service Launched by SpaceX

ROCKET SCIENCE
Skeyeon unveils novel patent for Enhanced VLEO satellite communication

Researchers release open-source space debris model

Spire Global sets to revolutionize space traffic management with Northstar's SSA satellites

NASA Collaborates with Small Businesses on Laser Communications for Artemis Missions

ROCKET SCIENCE
ASU talk will examine ethical questions surrounding life in space

Unlocking the secrets of a "hot Saturn" and its spotted star

Astronomers make rare exoplanet discovery

Old stars may be the best places to search for life, new study suggests

ROCKET SCIENCE
New images reveal what Neptune and Uranus really look like

Researchers reveal true colors of Neptune, Uranus

The PI's Perspective: The Long Game

Webb rings in the holidays with the ringed planet Uranus

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


ADVERTISEMENT



The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.