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Rocket engines built by WUT students – the future of the space industry

Will we soon witness a take-off of a rocket equipped with an innovative engine designed by our students? Incredible as it sounds, this vision may come true thanks to members of the MELprop Propulsion Student Research Group, which operates within the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering.

Students are working on two types of rocket engines: liquid-propellant and hybrid ones. The former uses an oxidizer (in liquid or gaseous form) and a liquid propellant. It is more efficient, but also more complex (and, consequently, more expensive) than a solid-propellant engine. A hybrid engine uses a liquid oxidizer and a solid propellant. As a result, it is equally efficient as a liquid-propellant engine, but also cheap and simple, just like a solid-propellant engine.

“This can be best explained using the example of a space shuttle, which has both solid-propellant and liquid-propellant engines,” Filip Kopeć says. “The liquid-propellant engines are started first. Their advantage over solid-propellant engines is that combustion can be stopped, e.g. to prevent a disaster when a defect is discovered during the take-off. This is not possible with solid-propellant engines.”

“Hybrid engines, on the other hand, are still largely unused in space missions,” adds Aleksander Gorgeri, the main rocket engine designer in the MELprop Student Research Group. “They were used on SpaceShipOne, the first privately-funded manned spacecraft.”

This means that our students are faced with a great challenge. Especially as hardly anybody in Poland works on this problem. “As far as I know, the only Polish entities dealing with hybrid engines are the Institute of Aviation, the Polish Rocket Society and a group of students from the AGH University of Science and Technology. Research on liquid-propellant engines is conducted by the Institute of Aviation and JanKindracki, Ph.D. (Eng.), from the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology,” Aleksander says.

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WUT'S researchers work on a range of scientific topics which are explored in different areas and on a different scale. Often the outcome of these helps with the development of new technologies or everyday products to come into being.

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