NASA’s Revolutionary Propulsion Design for Deep Space Missions

Rotating explosive rocket engine or RDRE hot fire test at Marshall Space Flight Center. Credit: NASA

together[{” attribute=””>NASA takes its first steps toward establishing a long-term presence on the Moon’s surface, a team of propulsion development engineers at NASA have developed and tested NASA’s first full-scale rotating detonation rocket engine, or RDRE, an advanced rocket engine design that could significantly change how future propulsion systems are built.

The RDRE differs from a traditional rocket engine by generating thrust using a supersonic combustion phenomenon known as a detonation. This design produces more power while using less fuel than today’s propulsion systems and has the potential to power both human landers and interplanetary vehicles to deep space destinations, such as the Moon and Mars.

Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and principal partner IN Space LLC in West Lafayette, Indiana, are looking at data from RDRE high-temperature fire tests conducted at Marshall’s East test site in 2022. The engine fired more than 12 times in a total of 10 minutes.

RDRE achieved a key test goal by demonstrating that hardware made with the new additive manufacturing or 3D printing, design and process can withstand the extreme heat and pressure environments created by explosions and operate for extended periods of time. While operating at full throttle, the RDRE produced over 4,000 pounds of thrust for nearly a minute at an average chamber pressure of 622 pounds per square inch, the highest pressure rating for this design on record.

Rotating Explosive Rocket Engine Firepower Test

Rotating explosive rocket engine or RDRE hot fire test at Marshall Space Flight Center. Credit: NASA

RDRE is a copper-alloy The GRCop-42 features a powder bed fusion additive manufacturing process that allows engines to run longer in extreme conditions without overheating.

Additional milestones achieved during testing include successful performance of deep throttling and internal ignition. This successful demonstration brings this technology closer to the flying vehicles of the future, enabling NASA and the commercial space to move more payloads and masses to deep space destinations, an essential component in making space exploration more sustainable. do. Because of NASA’s recent success with RDREs, follow-up work is being conducted by NASA engineers to develop fully reusable 10,000-pound RDREs to see the performance advantages over conventional liquid rocket engines.

UCF Rotating Explosive Rocket Engine

This photo shows thrust propulsion testing and characterization of a University of Central Florida rotary blast rocket engine. NASA has funded a UCF project that focuses on rotating blast rocket engines that use high-energy explosions to produce more energy with less fuel, improve engine efficiency, and reduce space travel costs and emissions. Credit: UCF

RDRE is managed and funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s game-changing development program.

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