From the Earth to the Moon: How Robert Goddard Launched Present-Day Spaceflight

On a snowy day in 1926, a 44-year-old physicist named Robert Goddard went with his wife Esther and some colleagues to his Aunt Effie’s ranch in Auburn, Massachusetts. What happened next was not a typical day on the farm. The group tested the first liquid-fueled rocket.

Posted in: News, Aeronautics, Aerospace, Aviation, Propulsion

Sound-Off: Which Vehicle Power-Plant Choices Will Win in 2020?

Today's vehicles feature traditional internal combustion engines, hybrid, plugin, and electric drivetrains. A reader asks: "Which power-plant choice will take the lead in 2020?"

Posted in: News, Automotive, Power Transmission

Wireless Ultrasonic Inspection Propulsion System

During inspection of pressure vessels and other large structures, an industry-accepted fixture is used to hold the search unit a predetermined distance from the area of interest under inspection. This fixture is then moved manually around the area of interest so that data can be collected and stored for later analysis. The fixture usually is chosen based on price and versatility; automated propulsion is not an option. This results in lower-quality data, as well as a greater chance that an anomaly could be missed due to the erratic motion inherent with manual manipulation.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Wireless communication systems, Wireless communication systems, Inspections, Test procedures

Towed-Glider Airborne Launch System Cuts Costs and Increases Efficiency and Safety

NASA seeks partners to collaborate in the development of this new approach for putting satellites in space, enabling low-cost launch services.

Putting a satellite into low Earth orbit requires a lot of energy, with ground-launched rockets expending two-thirds of their propellant fighting to get through the atmosphere. Researchers at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center have developed an innovative approach to launching satellites into space from an airborne platform. As with other air-launch approaches, it provides significant flexibility in the location and direction of the launch vehicle. Furthermore, unlike other air-based launch techniques, this system avoids the significant drawbacks related to expensive and complex design/development efforts, difficult maneuvering, risks to crew, and inefficient flight performance.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Cost analysis, Risk assessments, Launch vehicles, Satellites

Multi-Pulse Motor (MPM) for Use with Electric Solid Propellants (ESP)

The purpose of this work was to create a safe, green, controllable solid rocket motor that can be pulsed a number of times with electricity to control the ignition and extinguishment times to produce a required thrust or impulse bit. The innovation features an Electric Solid Propellant (ESP). The key problem is that the geometry of the ESP grain changes because of the evolution of the propellant to exhaust gases, but a closed electrical circuit is required to keep the electrical power applied to the grain and continue burning. The chamber pressure is utilized in the multi-pulse motor (MPM) design to ensure electrical contact is retained during the pulsing event.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Architecture, Architecture, Electric power, Solid propellants, Electric motors, Rocket engines

Rotary Piston Engine

There are many applications where a high power-to-weight engine is either necessary or helpful. Uses for this type of engine range from handheld power equipment, to motorcycles and aircraft — uses multiply when fuel efficiency, compactness, and versatility are added. Currently, there are few viable options available to fulfill these applications, and those that are available are very inefficient when high power is no longer desired. When the application warrants it, the engine type of choice has been the turbine engine.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Technical reference, Technical review, Engine efficiency, Pistons, Rotary engines

Green Liquid Monopropellant Thruster for In-Space Propulsion

Hydrazine has been the standard baseline liquid monopropellant for space propulsion over many decades since replacing hydrogen peroxide. Hydrazine was preferred over peroxide due to its easier storability and higher performance. Like peroxide, hydrazine can be readily decomposed by passing it over a catalyst. For these advantages, hydrazine has a significant drawback: it is toxic (carcinogen and mutagen), and its handling and refurbishment requires special procedures. Accidental spill is a concern, and strict and expensive mitigation procedures are required. In recent years, a need has arisen to find green or reduced toxicity hydrazine substitutes with equal or greater propulsive performance than hydrazine.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Alternative fuels, Hydrazines, Liquid propellants, Research and development, Fuel injection, Spacecraft

The Newest Way to Propel Nanosatellites? Water.

Although maneuvering nanosatellites in space is a complex procedure, a new micro-propulsion method features the simplest of ingredients: water.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Power Transmission, Propulsion

Sound-Off: Can Hydrogen be Stored in Carbon Nanotubes?

The fuel cell, an increasingly popular device in the automotive sector, creates a power source when coupled with hydrogen. The hydrogen can be made from natural gas or electrolysis of water and then compressed for storage. The challenge: How do you store hydrogen at low pressure?

Posted in: News, Energy Storage, Power Transmission, Propulsion

Technical Webinar Series from the Editors of SAE: Advances in Unmanned System Propulsion

In Conjunction with SAE

The development of new propulsion technologies has been the focus of R&D looking to provide the functionality needed for unmanned aircraft systems, including vertical takeoff and landing, long endurance, stealthy operations, and stability in hostile environments. Their development also incorporates advances in scalability, re-configurability, and extensions that host functions to legitimate business opportunities such as goods delivery, agriculture, firefighting, news gathering, and military operations. Success means reduced operation and maintenance costs as well as less complexity, but it also brings higher functioning systems.

Posted in: On-Demand Webinars, Propulsion

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