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Phase 0 Gaseous Testing Fitting Check

I’m currently in the Detroit airport en route back to State College, after a very successful visit to NASA JSC – the subject of a future blog post.


Figure 1: Philip Chow (Aero '16, Procurement Specialist) ensuring we have all the required fittings & components for testing

I’ve hinted at this before, but we’re starting to let everyone know about our liquid bi-propellant rocket engine testing program. The liquid testing has several program phases, further details of which we will release in the near future.  

For safety and training reasons, we are executing a “Phase 0” gaseous phase with a simple copper block chamber and nozzle that we have designed and built. Much thanks to Kris Doll – (Grad IE, Structures) for desiging and machining the copper thruster.


Figure 2: Phase 0 Gaseous Copper Thruster

While it would be possible to run this with a very simple propellant feed system similar in operation to an acetylene torch, to train the students we included major concepts required for our liquid testing program.  We have designed a system incorporating fail-safe valves, flowmeters, analogue and digital pressure sensors, thermocouples, a spark plug and ignition coil, and load cells, all controlled and read into LabVIEW. We also have a manual nitrogen purge system. The copper thruster will be installed on the same test stand we are using for the liquid tests, and all the components will be cleaned to liquid oxygen standards before use. Designing the Phase 0 plumbing system, operating procedures, control system, and safety protocols has been extremely helpful to preparing the required test documents for our liquid rocket engine program, and the work is ongoing throughout Phase 0. 


Figure 3: Philip Chow and Michael Policelli with most of the Phase 0 plumbing hardware

On July 12th in our student lab, Philip Chow and I laid out all of the fittings and components needed for Phase 0. Philip has done a fantastic job of delving into the daunting task of teaching himself about the different types of fittings and components needed, researching the best supplier, and handling the paperwork side of things. Because of his hard work and attention to detail, we had everything we need for our gaseous tests to begin. We will begin LOX cleaning and assembly this week!

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