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Airbus Develops New Storable Fuel Upper-State Propulsion System

By | December 17, 2014
      ESA testing its new storable fuel upper-stage propulsion system.

      ESA testing its new storable fuel upper-stage propulsion system. Photo: Airbus Defence and Space

      [Via Satellite 12-17-2014] As commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus Defence and Space engineers have developed a new upper-stage engine demonstrator. Although engines that run on storable fuel are a core competency of German-European aerospace engineering, none are currently being produced in the three to eight kilonewton thrust class. Results of the recently completed test campaign show the engine meets all the requirements to replace other models currently in service, such as on the Vega rocket.

      During testing, the team used dinitrogen tetroxide (NTO) for the first time to cool one section of the combustion chamber. According to Torben Birck, a systems engineer at Airbus Defence and Space, this had never been done in Europe before. They cooled another section of the combustion chamber using monomethylhydrazine (MMH). The advantage of using this combination of fuels is that MMH and NTO ignite on contact with each other, so no separate ignition is required. What’s more, both substances can be stored at room temperature. The team also redesigned the injection elements and the absorber.

      “Our hope now is that ESA will grant us a development contract. Now that we have proof of what the engine can do, the outlook is good,” says Torben.