Kiwis demo DARPA-funded rocket project
Launch tests high-density propellant
Video In a program under-reported beyond its own shores, New Zealand is working on some serious rocketry.
The work is being conducted by a company called Rocket Lab, which last week released a video of a “shakedown test” of its research into propellants.
Rocket Lab claims as its specialty a technology called viscous liquid monopropellants (VLMs): instead of having multiple tanks that need mixing to fire, the VLM is described as a “single part high density” propellant. A thixotrope – pseudo-solid while in storage, but turning to liquid when a shear force is applied to it – it’s designed to simplify the propulsion system.
DARPA and the US Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG) have dollars in the project.
The Sidewinder-size three-meter-long test rocket was fired 10Km into Hauraki Gulf on November 13, with US and Australian representatives present for the demonstration. The aim of this launch was to gather telemetry, and the rocket was recovered near Great Mercury Island.
Rocket Lab’s CEO Peter Beck told Voxy applications could reach all the way to telecommunications satellite launches.
Development has been fairly rapid, with the company first conducting static tests in January of 2011. ®
Getting rid of the test stand
Probably most stinks-and-bangs fans have already seen John Clark's insider history of rocket propellant development - if not here's a long and brilliant lunchtime read:
"Not many things got past the test stand in the 1950s."
Although quite a few seemed to manage to get rid *of* the test stand.
The 1950s was a time of incredibly extensive propellant research but on what I know of the subject, a gelled monopropellant is really something new. In antique times the military was looking for storable propellants which worked in any climate, and eventually solid propellants were good enough to take the job. But until then the answers were sometimes excessively exciting.
They paid for some wild research then, and learned a lot about interactions between physics and chemistry in the rocket exhaust. Gelled monopropellant is maybe the modern wild research, but getting it tested in a flying rocket, instead of on a test stand, is a big step. Not many things got past the test stand in the 1950s.