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The University of Southampton

Students carry out successful first test of hybrid rocket motor

Published: 22 April 2015Origin: Engineering

Last week a group of Master of Engineering (MEng) students carried out a successful first test of a hybrid rocket motor, designed to produce 400 N of thrust, as part of their final year Group Design Project (GDP).

Notes for editors

The test was carried out at a remote test site operated by DELTACAT Ltd, whose Managing Director, Prof. Tony Musker, is a Visiting Professor at the University. Tony co-supervised the GDP with Dr. Graham Roberts.

The hybrid motor uses a liquid oxidiser and solid fuel. It is a scaled-up version of a 40 N hybrid motor that was tested for the first time last year. During the year, the students have carried out several tests of the smaller rocket to determine the scaling factors and to verify the design of the larger motor. After two long days of preparation for the latest test, the “ignition” button was finally pressed late into the evening on the second day. The rocket plume lit up the test site in a spectacular fashion in the twilight. The rocket firing is at the end of the short video above.

The test verified that the motor was capable of producing the design thrust of 400 N and that the transition from monopropellant to hybrid mode of operation was rapid. The students, of Aeronautics & Astronautics and Mechanical Engineering, were elated after the test (as were the supervisors!). The team plan to publish the results of their work in due course. The work was carried out with support from EVONIK Industries AG in Germany and Céramiques Techniques Industrielles in France.

The engine is to be integrated onto the Mk2 Lunar Hopper vehicle, which is designed to take off under stable attitude control, move sideways and land under controlled rocket power. The Lunar Hopper is another GDP being co-supervised by Tony Musker and Graham Roberts. The first flight of the Mk2 vehicle is planned to take place in late May this year. The maiden flight of the Mk1 Lunar Hopper vehicle took place last year in very windy conditions. Both the hybrid rocket development and Lunar Hopper GDPs are planned to be continued next year.

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