Engine Development

To date, LPL has designed and manufactured five engines. Three of them were produced via additive manufacturing with the help of USC’s Center of Advanced Manufacturing and several companies. During each phase of engine development, our team strictly follow industry standards from start to finish. Designing, manufacturing, testing, and analyzing data at such a level ensures a longer life-cycle of our engines, which helps provide a professional learning experience, independent from the end results.

Current Capabilities for Engine Development:

  • LOx / Kerosene  → Balerion Dev. 1
  • GOx / Kerosene → Jessie & James, Blue Steel (Retired)
  • NOx / Kerosene → KNOX Engine (Retired) 

Future Plans for Engine Development:

  • LOx / Kerosene → Balerion Dev. 2
  • LOX / LCH4 → TBD

In terms of fundamental research, LPL has a strong inclination toward international collaboration. Our Balerion  Development 1 Engine is the result of such a joint effort with our old partner – the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan. From 2016 to 2019, our lab has partnered with Kyutech to develop a liquid oxygen/kerosene bi-propellant rocket engine. The engine development program for this collaboration was initially defined to have a minimum of one development engine, one qualification engine, and two flight engines. However, the current plan is to advance a second development engine in order to solve issues encountered with the first development engine.

ENGINE CHARACTERISTICS

  • Thrust – 2,250 lbf (10 kN)
  • Regeneratively and Film cooled
  • Burn Time – 25 sec.
  • Propellants – LOx/Kerosene
  • Chamber Pressure – 375 psi
  • OF ratio – 1.5
  • Chamber Temperature  – 2590 K
  • Specific impulse – 247 s
  • Total Mass Flow Rate – 4.13 kg/s

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING –  There are many different types of additive manufacturing, each with unique strengths and limitations. In our case, powder bed fusion using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) was chosen due to its availability and ability to create internal channels and holes based on our design requirements. The Center for Advance Manufacturing (CAM), located on-campus at USC, was used to print the engine out of Inconel-718 by using an EOS M 290 powder bed fusion additive manufacturing system.

J&J are LPL’s identical twin workhorse engines and they serve as learning tools for our lab members alongside the Hydra Test Stand. Modularity was a big consideration during the design phase as it easily allows for future modifications. Thermal control is achieved with ablative cooling on the chamber walls and nozzle, while film cooling is used on the injector face. Both engines can be tested at various conditions ranging from 500 – 1000 psi in the combustion chamber. Jessie has successfully fired multiple times at 725 psi chamber pressure. Our next steps are to test the J&J engines at various conditions to fully characterize the engines’ performance and then proceed to test new injectors using the overall J&J architecture.

ENGINE CHARACTERISTICS

  • Thrust – 747 lbf (3.32 kN)
  • Ablative and Film Cooling
  • Burn Time – 3 sec.
  • Propellants – GOx/Kerosene
  • Chamber Pressure – 1000 psi
  • OF ratio – 1.875
  • Chamber Temperature  – 3265 K
  • Specific impulse – 294 s
  • Total Mass Flow Rate – 1.15 kg/s

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING – J&J are LPL’s first engines to use additive manufacturing, paving the way for Balerion and future LPL engines. J&J are made of Maraging Steel and used the Direct Metal Laser Sintering 3-D printing process. Additive manufacturing allows for rapid iteration, minimal machining time, and can have a lower cost. Additionally, the process allows J&J to have minimal components with very complex geometries. The most apparent benefit is on J&J’s injectors where the fuel and oxygen inlets, manifolds, and injector elements are able to be a single piece.

 

In terms of fundamental research, LPL has a strong inclination toward international collaboration. Our Balerion  Development 1 Engine is the result of such a joint effort with our old partner – the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan. From 2016 to 2019, our lab has partnered with Kyutech to develop a liquid oxygen/kerosene bi-propellant rocket engine. The engine development program for this collaboration was initially defined to have a minimum of one development engine, one qualification engine, and two flight engines. However, the current plan is to advance a second development engine in order to solve issues encountered with the first development engine.

ENGINE CHARACTERISTICS

  • Thrust – 2,250 lbf (10 kN)
  • Regeneratively and Film cooled
  • Burn Time – 25 sec.
  • Propellants – LOx/Kerosene
  • Chamber Pressure – 375 psi
  • OF ratio – 1.5
  • Chamber Temperature  – 2590 K
  • Specific impulse – 247 s
  • Total Mass Flow Rate – 4.13 kg/s

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING –  There are many different types of additive manufacturing, each with unique strengths and limitations. For our case, powder bed fusion using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) was chosen due to its availability and ability to create internal channels and holes due to design requirements. The Center for Advance Manufacturing (CAM), located on the campus of USC, was used to print the engine out of Inconel-718 by using an EOS M 290 powder bed fusion additive manufacturing system.

J&J are LPL’s identical twin workhorse engines and they are serving as learning tools for our lab alongside the Hydra Test Stand. Modularity was a big consideration during the design phase as it easily allows for future modifications. The thermal control is achieved with ablative cooling on the chamber walls and nozzle, while film cooling is used on the injector face. Both engines can be tested at various conditions ranging from 500 – 1000 psi in the combustion chamber. Jessie has already successfully fired multiple times at 725 psi chamber pressure. Our next steps are to test the J&J engines at various conditions to fully characterized the engines performance and then we will proceed to test new injectors using the overall J&J architecture.

ENGINE CHARACTERISTICS

  • Thrust – 747 lbf (3.32 kN)
  • Ablative and Film Cooling
  • Burn Time – 3 sec.
  • Propellants – GOx/Kerosene
  • Chamber Pressure – 1000 psi
  • OF ratio – 1.875
  • Chamber Temperature  – 3265 K
  • Specific impulse – 294 s
  • Total Mass Flow Rate – 1.15 kg/s

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING – J&J are LPL’s first engines to use additive manufacturing, paving the way for Balerion and future LPL engines. J&J are made of Maraging Steel and used the Direct Metal Laser Sintering 3-D printing process. Additive manufacturing allows for rapid iteration, minimal machining time, at a low cost. Additionally, the process allows J&J to have minimal components on very complex geometries. This benefit is most apparent on J&J’s injectors allowing the fuel and oxygen inlets, manifolds, and injector elements to be a single piece.