The Green Corridor to Space – An Optimal Test Facility for Modern Rocketry

Participants: LTU Division of Space Technology and ISAR Aerospace.

Modern rocketry is now booming at the Esrange Space Centre in Kiruna and one of the important key companies which makes this a reality is ISAR Aerospace from Munich in Germany. They have recently established a Swedish subsidiary in Kiruna to test their rocket engines to offer a launch vehicle for satellites that will orbit the earth.

The Space Systems Group at Luleå University of Technology (LTU) is committed to join these activities achieved both through education (involving students at MSc level via internships and projects) and research (involving scientific staff and PhD students). The targeted area for LTU is highly relevant due to the increased commercial interest in routinely operating launch and return vehicles at Esrange.

With an increased number of launches comes the demand that all these rocket engines need to burn as cleanly as possible, with minimized negative impact on the environment. An environmentally sound, both technologically and economically viable way to achieve this, would be to operate these vehicles with fuel-flexible sustainable propellants, e.g. methane, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen-peroxide, and hydrogen; i.e. fuels with low carbon to hydrogen ration and that can be produced using the green energy which is accessible in the Norrbotten region.

However, the green propulsion solutions which are feasible for other engine architectures, such as ships, automobiles, trucks, and gas turbines (both terrestrial and aero derivatives) are unfortunately not always straightforward to implement for rockets. Therefore, a rocket engine test rig, with a capacity to simulate close-to-realistic conditions for launch vehicles, would not only provide an unique opportunity to progress knowledge and innovative technology to improve the performance of rocket engines (including phenomenon/subparts thereof), e.g. materials, cooling-, injection- and ignition systems, smooth fluid-structure interaction, reduced combustion instabilities, and effective nozzle design (de Laval type), but also to serve as a unique facility for rigorous testing of useful properties of sustainable rocket fuels.

The strategy we plan to put forward is based on conducting well-defined ad-hoc-designed experiments aimed at improving fuel-efficiency and reducing emissions. The deep insight from these rocket engine test runs, will be provided with unique laser diagnostics. Laser diagnostics has the advantage to quantify scalars within the reacting flow, without perturbing the measurement region of interest, and the useful information can be provided with excellent spatial and temporal resolution. An example of a deliverable from LTU to give ISAR Aerospace a competitive edge, is to produce high-fidelity data (e.g. temperature, species, density, and velocity) “behind the combustor windows” to support the development of predictive engineering models for modern rocketry.


Professor Alexis Bohlin
Space Systems
[email protected]

Dr. Jihyoung Cha
Space Systems
[email protected]