Nammo yesterday conducted a final, successful ground test of the Nucleus rocket flight propulsion system, at the Nammo Raufoss Test Center. The ground-breaking hybrid rocket technology is now ready to power the first launch of a Norwegian-built space rocket in September 2018.
The Nucleus is on schedule for a suborbital launch at the end of September this year from the North of Norway. It will be the first European hybrid rocket to ever reach space.
All the components of the rocket were tested together on site – meaning that the team was able to get feedback on a complete, working rocket system. The motor was ignited and burnt for 40 seconds, until full depletion of the oxidizer and gas tanks.
“We are extremely happy that today’s test was a success. Today’s firing of the rocket system was the last in a long series of tests, and finally enables us to clear the rocket for launch. This system test included all flight components for the propulsion system, the in-flight electronics and data acquisition systems, and we also validated the controls and filling procedures, including ground support equipment. Nucleus is GO for launch! That’s a great outcome after many months of hard work from our fantastic team. Now we really look forward to the launch in September,” says Adrien Boiron, Lead Engineer on the Nucleus project.
Will reach an altitude of more than 100km
The Nucleus rocket will be used in a suborbital space launch in September where it will reach an altitude of over 100km – which is defined as the boundary of space – before descending into the Norwegian sea.
The rocket will be launched from Andøya Space Center, in the north of Norway. This project is being carried out under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA), as part of the Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP), and with the support of the Norwegian Space Center (NRS). It has the long-term goal of developing launcher propulsion technology to ensure Europe’s future in space access, and medium-term goal to offer a family of Norwegian sounding rockets to service the needs of education, research and in-orbit demonstration.
When the engine, motor, fuel and payload modules are assembled, the rocket will be 9 meters long and have a total weight of around 800kg. The motor gives a thrust of 30KN (3 tons) and is built to flight standards. The Nucleus is designed to be a sounding rocket, but this demonstration serves a larger purpose, as this technology can enable yet more ambitious goals, such as powering a micro launcher, capable of placing small satellites (50 to 150kg) in orbit from Andøya. To that end, a larger, future version of the engine, producing as much as 75-100 KN of thrust, will soon be developed.
Most sounding rockets today use a solid propellant. This is relatively cheap, but toxicity is a drawback, as well as the risks associated with transport and storage. Also, once ignited, it cannot be switched off.
Nammo’s new engine is instead based on a hybrid design, combining both liquid and solid fuel. This approach has two main environmental advantages: only water and CO2 are emitted, and the oxidiser (hydrogen peroxide) is safer than other liquid fuels, and non-poisonous. Also, the rocket shares the benefit of liquid fueled engines in that it can be throttled, turned off – and restarted.
The innovative design of this hybrid rocket motor, which is safe, controllable, low-cost and green, reflects the progress and superiority of Nammo’s hybrid rocket motor technology, and places Nammo as a global leader in this area.
Additional quotes by Adrien Boiron, Lead Engineer on the Nucleus project:
-– “The team is really feeling fantastic. This is the most hard and challenging test we ever have performed! There was a lot of tension before the test, and a lot of relief and satisfaction after. The behavior of the engine during the full duration, and early look at the data, shows really an optimal result. Everybody can enjoy the feeling of a job very well done, and a well-deserved vacation, before the next effort: getting to the launch.”
-- “The launch in Andøya will be historic. It is several decades in Europe that no new significant new rocket technology has flown. It will the first Norwegian rocket to reach space, as indeed it was designed, manufactured, tested and soon launched from this beautiful northern country. For Nammo as a company, it is a big first as well, it shows a serious increase in recent years of our capabilities at all levels, that enables us to be one of the few frontrunners in the world today in the development of propulsion technology for micro launcher propulsion.”
Nammo is an international aerospace and defense company headquartered in Norway. With 2300 staff spread across more than 30 sites and offices in 13 countries, Nammo is one of the world's leading providers of ammunition, rocket motors and demilitarization services for both military and civilian customers.