The British government aims to stimulate the development of "autophagous" rockets, which consume parts of themselves to get into orbit.
The UK Government's Department of Defense & Security Accelerator (DASA) has pledged £ 90.000 (approximately € 110.000) for the development of the 'autophagus' space rocket engine built by researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
The technology is perfect for small rockets, such as those that carry satellites into orbit. "Resizing a space rocket reduces the mass of the propellant more than it reduces the mass of all other components, including the tanks that contain the propellant itself." To say it in a note è Patrick Harkness, of the University of Glasgow.
The concept of autophagy is simple: the space rocket also burns the tanks. This allows us to save excess mass and allows us to miniaturize the vehicle without such a limit anymore.Patrick Harkness, University of Glasgow.
The first tests? A success
The Glasgow team has already tested a version of the engine that will allow the rocket to burn completely solid propellant. The money from the DASA will help fund research into the use of a very special hybrid propellant.
A space rocket made of fuel
"The body of a hybrid autophagus rocket will be a solid fuel tube containing a liquid oxidant," Harkess said. “The whole assembly will be consumed, from the bottom up, by an engine that will vaporize the fuel line, add the oxidizer and burn the mixture to create thrust. The engine will have consumed the entire body of the rocket before the assembly reaches orbit, and only the payload will remain. It's a much more mass-efficient process. "
In summary? The space rocket dissolves as it rises into orbit, and only the cargo remains.
The hybrid engine will be tested next year at Kingston University in London. This new technology could help the UK achieve a goal. To achieve a share of at least 2030% of the growing market for launching small satellites by 10. Two of the biggest players in this sector today are American: Rocket Lab, which provides launches into orbit with its Electron carrier, and SpaceX, which houses more and more small payloads such as “rideshares” on its workhorse Falcon 9.