A small launch vehicle firm in Europe has successfully evaluated a small model of an aerospike engine driven by liquid oxygen and methane, which it intends to ramp up for utilization in an orbital rocket. Pangea Aerospace, located in Barcelona, stated on November 16 that it had completed a set of tests of the aerospike engine, dubbed Demo P1, at a facility run by the German space agency DLR in Lampoldshausen, Germany. One of the tests, which lasted a month, involved running the 4,500pound-force (20-kilonewton) engine for 2.5 minutes.
Because of its potential for improved efficiency, aerospike engines have been explored for decades. Such engines do not have the bell-shaped nozzles found in traditional engines, allowing for better exhaust expansion. Aerospike engines, according to Pangea, can be 15 percent more efficient than traditional engines.
Aerospike engines, on the other hand, have been challenging to create. Pangea believes it has overcome the problem by combining a NASA-developed copper alloy dubbed GRCop42 with 3D printing of regeneratively cooled engine, enabling the intricate network of channels for the circulating propellants in an engine before they reach the combustion chamber easier to construct.
In an interview, Adrià Argem, CEO of Pangea, said, “The 3D-printing possibilities in its manufacture not only lowers its cost but also allows us to possess this freedom of design.” The purpose of this engine was to show how the aerospike engine technology may be used in larger engines. Argem wouldn’t say how much push their next engine would produce but stated it would be robust enough for a modest launch vehicle. The French space agency CNES has also awarded the business a study contract to investigate meganewton-class aerospike engines.
He claims that scaling up the engine will be easier than creating and testing the very first one. “One thing we know now is that the bigger the aerospike propulsion gets, the better it gets,” he said. “Scaling down to cool surfaces was tough and complex for this small one.”
The test’s success will aid the company in raising a new round of investment, which has already raised over €3 million ($3.4 million) in the private seed funding and around €3.5 million in public and grants money. In the interview, Xavier Llairó, Pangea’s chief commercial officer, said, “We are looking to conduct our Series A round in the year 2022 and we now have some interested investors.”
In the next three years, Pangea intends to show the larger version of their aerospike engine in flight, according to Argem. “It would be the first launch of the aerospike that we are aware of, demonstrating to everyone it is a fascinating technology that allows you to optimize your cargo into orbit.”