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Masten Space engine test

Published by Robin on Tue Oct 4, 2005 7:04 am
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Dave Masten, who puts the Masten in Masten Space Systems, writes to the arocket list:
We are now officially into engine testing. Here’s the announcement: http://masten-space.com/blog/?p=55

The test was a simple qualitative test – the telemetry was video
cameras, ears, and control system feedback. In reality this was more a
test of the test stand and control systems than an engine test proper,
but at some point the only viable test of a test stand and controls must
include firing an engine.

The good news is that the engine did exactly what it was supposed to do.
Combustion was stable with an exhaust that was hot, loud and supersonic.
The bad news is that the control system failed to shut down the engine.

The engine chamber is water cooled, with the nozzle being heat sink. The
engine was designed to run ~5 seconds with a maximum planned firing of 3
seconds. The engine has a variable geometry chamber and it’s entire
purpose is to figure out what we need to do for a later flight engine.
We built several injectors with variations to bracket the ideal
configuration. For this test we used the injector that was the most
conservative in that it would be most likely to be stable and not be the
cause of any problems. Likewise we used a very conservative chamber
geometry that gave plenty of L*.
What isn’t in the video is that many seconds after the design run time,
(9 seconds after ignition) the flame turns a hideous green color and
goes subsonic as the throat disappears.

One of the things that we learned, is that even with a big red “stop
this stupid thing” button, the operator needs to spend some time
previous to the test doing “hit the button” exercises. (Or release the
button if using a deadman switch, either way – count “1 2 3 4″, hit [or
release] the button.)

We’ve also identified some process improvements, which we won’t go into
here. ;-)

So far, basic engine design and construction is the easy part. Building
a good test stand, controls and instrumentation are the hard parts.

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