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5th April 2023 (7 Topics)

3D-printed cryogenic engine

Context

The Skyroot Aerospace has successfully test-fired 3D-printed fully-cryogenic rocket engine at a private propulsion test facility.

Background:

  • Cryogenic engines are one of the hardest to develop and so far only six countries have these launch vehicles including the US, China, Russia, France, Japan, and India.
  • India used its first GSLV in 2001.

About the launch:

  • The 3D-printed cryogenic engine was fired for a record 200 seconds, named ‘Dhawan-II’.
  • The test was carried out at Solar Industries propulsion test facility in Nagpur, Maharashtra, using indigenously developed mobile cryogenic engine test pad.
  • Dhawan-II engine builds upon the foundation laid by the firm’s first privately developed fully-cryogenic rocket engine, the 1.0 kN thrust Dhawan – I, successfully test fired in November 21, 2022.

The Skyroot aerospace has launched, Vikram – S, which made the firm, the first Indian private company to send a rocket into space.

  • The 3D printed Dhawan – II engine also uses a 3D printed torch igniter and cryo-injection valve with quick response time.
  • Developed by:
    • The engine development was partly supported by NITI Ayog’s ANIC-ARISE program which promotes technologies including the use of green rocket propellants.

Cryogenic rocket engine technology – ‘Dhawan-II’:

  • The engine has been completely 3D printed and made in India.
    • A super-alloy for 3D printing the engine was used which reduced the manufacturing time by 95%.
  • A cryogenic Engine is an engine that uses in space vehicles that utilize cryogenics.

The study of how materials behave and are produced at extremely low temperatures (below -150 degrees Celsius) in order to lift and launch heavier objects into space is known as cryogenics.

  • The major components of a cryogenic rocket engine are combustion/thrust chamber, igniter, fuel injector, fuel cryo pumps, oxidizer cryo pumps, gas turbine, cryo valves, regulators, the fuel tanks and a rocket engine nozzle.
  • Fuel used:
    • While all cryogenic engines in use today use a combination of liquid oxygen and hydrogen as fuel, the Skyroot cryogenic engine will use Liquid Natural gas (LNG) and Liquid Oxygen (LoX) as propellants.
    • LNG, which is more than 90% methane, is considered the rocket fuel of the future.

Significance:

  • More efficiency to carry payloads: The cryogenic rocket engines, which greatly enhances payload-carrying capabilities.
    • Fuels used are environmentally friendly compared to other solid, semi-cryogenic and hypergolic propellants used in rocket industry.
  • Other advantages of the LNG propulsion system include:
    • lower risk of explosion
    • less costly propellants and
    • The fuel is less evaporable in space that makes it suitable for a vehicle that travels to space for a prolonged period.

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