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HYPROGEO Report Summary

Project ID: 634534
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HYPROGEO (Hybrid Propulsion Module for transfer to GEO orbit)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2016-01-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Independent access to space is a key component of the European Space Policy. The competition is increasing in this area both for the full launching systems and the key subsystems. Cost-effectiveness becomes the main driving factor.

HYPROGEO ambition is to study a propulsion module based on Hybrid chemical propulsion. Hybrid propulsion is not a new technology but its application to a transfer module or to a re-ignitable upper stage is very innovative. It is an interesting alternative for the GEO transfer, between the chemical propulsion (bi-liquid) and the new trend of Electrical Propulsion (EP). There are very good synergies and complementarities with the other propulsion activities.

The proof of concept (specific impulse, thrust) has been demonstrated. The main technical challenge is the long duration firings. The future development of an operational system, already identified in the current roadmaps, requires advanced R&D work on 4 critical technologies:

- Combustion chamber.

- High endurance nozzle.

- Catalytic injector.

- Production, storage and use of high concentration hydrogen peroxide.

These R&D activities structure 4 main work packages. A system study ensures the global vision in coherence with an economic analysis, the identification of technical challenges and the consolidation of scientific results. A last work package performs the dissemination of results.

An innovative aspect is the fact that the R&D activities are directly driven by the ecvolution of market needs and system requirements.

Main expected benefits are:
- Green and simpler design (compared to bi-liquid).
- Shorter transfer time and reduced cost of operations (compared to EP).

A TRL 3-4 level is expected at the end of the project.

The impact of the project is secured by the composition of the consortium led by Airbus Defence and Space with the main European actors of the hybrid: it contributes to the consolidation of the European industrial supply chain for Hybrid propulsion.

Project duration is 36 months.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The main objectives of the achieved period (M1-M12) were:

• to define the main requirements of the main hybrid engine & associated subassemblies in term of targeted thrust level and efficiency, firing durations, accommodation constrains, number of re-ignition/cycles, etc …

• to consolidate the overall test strategy implemented throughout the project;

• to perform the first characterization tests on key component technologies;

• to make a trade-off between several innovative hybrid engine combustion chamber configurations;

• to define and implement a communication and dissemination strategy.


WP1: A system level study has been performed to define the most promising applications for the foreseen hybrid engine and derive the targeted technical requirements.Definition of a preferred application as an independent kick-stage module compatible with full or partial geostationary transfer of geostationary satellites, optimally complemented by a low-thrust phase provided by the satellite electric propulsion system itself after separation from the kick-stage, to maximize the payload mass in orbit while keeping acceptable transfer durations.

WP2: R&D activities to support the trade-off between several innovative hybrid engine combustion chamber concepts. Numerical simulations of the piston concept, leading to a swirled outer radial injection. Development & experimental tests of various concepts have been performed on a dedicated test-bench. Identification of design drivers: regression rate, location of swirl oxidizer injectors, fuel behavior under thermo-mechanical loads. A selection of a family of preferred combustion chamber concepts was performed, based on the numerical analyses and experimental firing results.

WP3: Identification of operating conditions & optimization of the nozzle inner shape. Manufacturing tests of the nozzle and characterization of the nozzle materials. Initial geometry of the nozzle defined through coupled fluid/solid numerical simulations. Collaborative definition of the nozzle diameter at the combustion chamber interface and throat diameter with related sub-assemblies and performance objectives aimed for the final breadboard to be tested at the end of the project. Verification test firings performed to characterize C/C-SiC nozzle insert erosion (January 2016). Preliminary results shows that no erosion was observed in the throat of the nozzle insert
indicating that the need for an additional coating of the surface might not be necessary. To be backed up with additional more representative firings scheduled for April 2016.

WP4: Design & manufacturing of a dedicated PX1 characterization catalytic bed followed by an experimental campaign in February 2016. Preliminary results demonstrate that PX1 catalyst is compatible with PROPULSE 980 HTP for long duration firing: More than 10min long firing duration was achieved, for the first time in Europe, using
45kg of 98% HTP without any significant PX1 catalyst bed degradation. PX1 & PROPULSE 980 HTP have thus been selected as baseline catalyst and oxidizer for the hybrid engine concept & ACT thruster.

WP5: Definition and validation of the stabilizer package for 98% HPT to insure safe handling, long storage shelf, and high performance. Experimental validation and optimization of the PROPULSE 980 HTP production process. Identification of material candidates for an HTP based propulsion system compatibility tests with PROPULSE 980 HTP. PROPULSE 980 HTP product: Material safety data sheet produced. PROPULSE 980 HTP stabilizer package identical to standard 87.5% HTP: ensure chemical compatibility with PX1 catalyst. Demonstration of transportability of PROPULSE 980 HTP. Standard transportation procedures used for delivery of PROPULSE 980 HTP to IOA institute
for PX1 characterization bed test campaign. Identification of the best parameters of the crystallization based production process.

WP6: Development of the HYPROGEO visual identity & websi

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Analysis of the assets of hybrid propulsion in HYPROGEO’s target of long duration and stable firings leaded to the definition of a preferred application as an independent kick-stage module compatible with full or partial geostationary transfer of geostationary satellites.

This independent module definition, with four smaller hybrid thrusters capable of individual firing durations over an hour, throttling and reignition capabilities, is evaluated a shorter-term target than an integrated large-scale satellite propulsion module, as more versatile and more adapted to an R&D project breadboarding and test capabilities.

One of the interesting impacts identified by the WP1 activities to be disseminated was the identification of the best compromise in terms of performance management at satellite level between the kick-stage chemical propulsion (to quickly raise the orbit since its injection from launcher), and the electric propulsion on-board the spacecraft. This optimization search aims to increase the satellite operational lifetime (with the maximization of Xenon mass where in geostationary orbit) without leading to over-constraining durations currently encountered with full electric propulsion transfers.

In an large-scale R&D project like HYPROGEO, with as many as 13 different partners working together for a European pioneering goal of developing key technologies for an innovative hybrid propulsion, effective project coordination is a key enabler for the success of the project, furthermore with an ambitious project objective of the first-ever full-scale demonstration of long-duration and vacuum firings of such hybrid engine. All component-level activities performed during this first year of HYPROGEO have been performed as planned in the test strategy and verification plan, while ensuring coherency of all requirements and data between all partners and compliance of all subassemblies to the system-level technical requirements. Positive impacts are already tangible in all technical domains as first exploitable results are currently being disseminated, from an innovative isochoric combustion chamber concept for long duration and constant thrust, a high-temperature and low-erosion material development for a high endurance nozzle, a very performing test of a long duration catalytic bed using 98% HTP (European first), and development of a HTP production plant of up to a top-level concentration over 98%.

The position of HYPROGEO along the value-chain was also analysed, identifying it downstream of launch providers and upstream of GEO satellite operators. For what concerns GEO satellites, it appears that the tendency is to go towards heavier satellites: approximately 25 launches per year for an average mass of 4.8 t.

Regarding the supply chain, High Test Peroxide (HTP) was pinpointed as the bottleneck for the production of hybrid engines as envisioned by HYPROGEO. Nevertheless, there seems to be a regain of interest to develop an appropriate supply chain of HTP as a green and safe alternative to other liquid propellants. Europe is particularly well positioned as it hosts the three largest producers of hydrogen peroxide.

Lastly, the competitive positioning (SWOT) of hybrid engines was analysed from the technical perspective. Hybrid engines are simpler, safer, and cheaper than chemical or electric ones. In terms of ISP and thrust, they provide an interesting in-between alternative to chemical and electric engines.

Now that the key elements have been identified, a second iteration will be performed on all the items of the “defining position” phase. These will then allow targeting the most relevant stakeholders to interview, and further refine the analysis.

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