The most integral part of a liquid fuelled rocket is the engine. The TU Wien Space Team has been working on liquid rocket engines for a few years now and to be able to test and improve those prototypes, test stands are required. These test stands allow us to achieve fast cycle times between engine designs and offer the needed infrastructure and equipment like tanks, piping and sensors, so we are able to fully focus on testing the engine itself. We are constantly working on expanding what we can achieve with these engines ever since our beginnings in liquid engine technology. To date we have already developed three test stands, two of which are still in use and are getting regular upgrades.
With TS01, our first test stand, we were able to take the first steps with liquid engines with thrust of up to 70N and managed to build fundamental know-how ranging from questions like “How to design a reliable ignition?” over fuel mixtures to the geometry of injectors. Thanks to the small scale and the simple construction development on this platform was fast and cheap which was essential for us to get started in the field of liquid rocket engines.
We have conducted a multitude of tests with our first prototype engine “Thor” on this test stand, which taught us a lot about the inner workings of such engines. Learning from this we built the engine “Proteus”, a reliable engine with which we achieved the switch from pressurised air as oxidator to NitrOx, a nitrogen-oxygen mix.
TS02 is the follow up of the previous test stand. The very same reason that made TS01 so successful was the same reason why we outgrew its capacities so quickly: it was a cheap and simple construction designed for very low power engines. After many tests with Thor and Proteus, there wasn’t enough left to learn on this scale and so to gain more experience with the technology, a bigger and more powerful engine was needed – which was simply impossible on the limited capacities of the old test stand. TS02 is a much more robust and higher capacity design. Thanks to a lot more sensors and a larger platform we were able to build more powerful engines, which we were able to fine-tune a lot more carefully. The test stand was developed alongside the engine for µHoubolt and is the foundation for our tests utilizing nitrous oxide (N2O) and LOX as oxidators.
Currently we are developing our Ethanol-N20 engine “Amalia” with a thrust of 500N on TS02, which is the first liquid rocket engine that is planned to actually fly in a rocket as part of the µHoubolt project.
We are entering a completely different scale of engines with the test stand TS03, named “Franz”. With a capacity of 24kN of thrust we are able to test engines about 50 times more powerful than we can with TS02 – Franz is without a doubt the biggest and highest capacity rocket engine test stand ever built and operated in Austria. The test stand was planned and designed for the suborbital rocket concept Houbolt, though currently the project GATE is working on an engine at this scale. Franz is designed to be robust and flexible enough to not only be utilized for various projects inside the Team, but so we can also offer its capabilities to other teams or companies to advance the progress and infrastructure for aerospace technology within Austria.