GU Rocketry is a student-led research group, part of the Engineering Department of University of Glasgow that focuses on the development of launch vehicles and their propulsion systems. After being founded in 2019, the project has quickly grown to now contain over 70 members in a variety of technical and non-technical roles.
“Industry support from companies such as thyssenkrupp Materials UK has allowed the team to undertake increasingly challenging projects,” stated thyssenkrupp Materials UK’s COO, Billy Kingsbury. “With GU Rocketry now being home to Scotland’s only hybrid engine development programme, the engine, named Chimera, will serve as a development point for the team to then progress onto more powerful engines in the coming years.
“We are proud to be part of this aerospace programme and we are impressed with the ambition and depth of knowledge of the students. Our company realises the importance of developing young talent and closing the skills gap in the industry. Therefore, we are honoured to be supporting and sponsoring the next generation of young engineers, who will continue to bring the UK aeronautical engineering industry into maturity in the coming decade.”
Hybrid engines take the advantages of both liquid and solid rockets and as a result, they become much safer to operate and develop. The Chimera engine is made up of four main components: the run tank and feed system, injector, combustion chamber and nozzle. The liquid fuel, also known as oxidiser, which GU Rocketry will use, is nitrous oxide and is stored in the run tank. A property of nitrous oxide is self-pressurising. This means that it can push itself down the feed system and into the main propulsion unit, where it will meet the injector. The injector atomises the liquid into little droplets, like a showerhead, to enter the combustion chamber.
When the oxidiser reaches the combustion chamber, heat generated by an igniter causes the nitrous oxide to decompose and release oxygen. The combustion chamber contains the solid fuel and therefore, the team have chosen to use hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB). This then reacts with the oxygen and causes combustion. The hot exhaust gases that are produced are forced down the chamber through to the nozzle, where the gasses are accelerated to maximise thrust and cause propulsion. The Chimera engine has passed the preliminary design review and is on schedule for a hot fire test in Q3 of 2021.
thyssenkrupp Materials UK will be providing the materials and machining for all major components of the Chimera engine and will work closely with the team to ensure that the design is optimised. The team will also collaborate with thyssenkrupp Materials UK on future engine designs and on aspects ranging from material selection to machining, utilising the wealth of knowledge that the company can provide.
Nigel Evans, Head of Defence at thyssenkrupp Materials UK commented: “Our sponsorship of this advanced project will provide the students at Glasgow University with real-world industry experience that simply is not available from the classroom. We are excited to work with the GU Rocketry team, as we firmly believe that technological advances in aerospace engineering and many other industrial sectors are often influenced or enhanced by students and young talent.”