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Scale Up of a Game-Changing Hybrid Rocket Propulsion System for Sounding Rockets and Smallsat Launchers

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HyTEC (Scale Up of a Game-Changing Hybrid Rocket Propulsion System for Sounding Rockets and Smallsat Launchers)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-03-31

Driven by maturation of miniaturization technologies, cost-effective off-theshelf electronics and reduced barriers to entry, the small satellite (< 500 kg) market has seen an historic rapid growth in the recent years. This trend is expected to continue as current forecasts estimate the requirement of 800 satellites to be launched every year for the next decade. This is a significant exponential increase in demand of small satellites. Current launch capacities cannot cover existing and near-term needs. Therefore, a dedicated launch service is necessary to launch small satellites to specific orbits and time windows without having the constraints from rideshare launches. HyImpulse will operate initially 12 launches per year (increasing to 24) with the proposed Mini Launcher.
HyTec will not only help to develop the low-cost European small launcher but will also introduce new technologies such as hybrid propulsion system and lightweight turbopumps that currently do not exist in Europe. The major differentiator from other competitors and the reason why this project is so important for society, is that the core and the base of technologies used revolves around sustainability. The propellants have no environmental impact, during the operational phase of the company, the paraffin fuel is planned to be manufactured completely using the Fischer-Tropsch process with renewable energy. This is an important factor, given the expected rise in demand of frequent launches.
The overall objective is to supply the rise in demand of small satellites launches by offering a unique launch service that will complement the fleet of European existing launchers, as well as introduce revolutionary technologies in space propulsion that are also sustainable and economically efficient.
There is a significant progress since the beginning of the project. Despite the challenges caused by pandemic, we continued developing our product and expanding our operations:
Two first ground test motors without nozzle extension had been manufactured and tested at the DLR Lampoldshausen center in September 2020. The tests were successful, and the results enabled us to further improve the design. For next test campaign, we expect to have a doubled performance. These motors will be equipped with nozzle extensions. The first lightweight design of the motor is now completed and the fabrication of two flight motors has started.
The documentation of the preliminary design of the liquid oxygen turbopump is completed. However, we might not reach next deliverables on time since there was a delay in preparation of testbench. Therefore, component tests and turbopump unit tests are now planned for Q1 and Q3 2022, respectively.
In regard to propulsion system, key elements, as well as engine requirements and its performance had been identified. All documentations related to the propellant management system had been completed.
The production of fuel grain had already started and now we are working on manufacturing, integration and assembly plan.
The first customer contract for the first launch of the Sounding Rocket was signed. We are currently in process of reaching to potential customers for our Small Launcher. Partnerships with launch brokers, launch integrators and launch facilities have been established in forms of Memorandum of Understanding or agreements. In parallel, HyImpulse is working towards obtaining flight permits and licenses required to begin offering its services to customers.
The work had been made on automation and optimization of workflow between the teams and departments. We have installed and successfully integrated a new software to streamline our processes and monitor the spending. It supports the management team in scheduling and procurement activities. The next step would be to incorporate our quality control and quality assurance procedures into this process.
The information on the progress of the project had been continuously posted on the official website, social media channels, aired on television, and presented on conferences, university and industry talks, journal papers and news articles. Some of the major announcements can be found under the News page on our website. To further engage with our followers and interested third parties, we have placed an option to ‘request an interview’ on our website and became more active online by implementing our social media marketing strategy.
Until the end of this project, the scale up and testing of the flight engine, turbopump assembly and other subcomponents are planned to be completed.
In terms of socio-economic impact, since the beginning of the project HyImpulse consisted of 20 staff member and now it is more than doubled. The company plans to create jobs and grow to above 100 in the years following the phase 2 SME project to develop the launch vehicle and offer a launch service.
After these company milestones are achieved, the mass production of hybrid rocket rockets will begin, and will lead to the major cost reduction and eventually to a successful market adoption.
The specifics of hybrid propulsion technology will also enable to provide rapid deployment capability for urgent need or in case of emergency. This could be applied for environmental monitoring, disaster management satellites, as well as the new technology demonstrators that require rapid turnaround launches. Ultimately it will have a positive impact on the EU economy.
The development of such capability will provide a substantial competitive advantage, in comparison to international offerings. This will open a key market for Europe in space transportation.
Winding machine for motors
Winding activities
Paraffin Production
Small series production of motors
Team with motor
HyPLOX75 test number 1