GRACE project: successful tests of the satellite drive engine

Source: Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Aviation

In the first quarter of 2024, the Łukasiewicz – Institute of Aviation successfully completed a series of tests of the engine that belongs to the category of the largest subsystems in satellite propulsion. The development of this engine is carried out as part of the GRACE project, financed by the Polish contribution to the European Space Agency.

 

The engine uses a number of unique technologies developed by the Institute and with the participation of industrial partners. These refer to material technologies (including a composition of materials capable of continuous operation at a temperature of 1500°C), as well as a globally unique catalyst for the decomposition of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide, allowing long-term operation at temperatures up to 950°C and in an oxidizing environment.

 

 

“We are currently at the stage of verifying the engine engineering model. We conducted experiments on ground. However, the engine itself is designed to operate in a very demanding space environment. The next step will be to prepare a flight-like engine and further verification tests”, says Dr. Eng. Paweł Surmacz, GRACE project manager at Łukasiewicz – Institute of Aviation.

The project is consistent with the modern trend of sustainable propulsion solutions through the use of non-toxic, so-called green propellants, including highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide (98%), the production technology of which was also developed by the Institute.

 

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“In the project, we use our special research infrastructure intended for testing rocket and space propulsion: an atmospheric propulsion test facility, allowing for advanced tests in the ground environment. In the next phase of the GRACE development program, we plan experimental works on a new vacuum test stand which was created with the financial support from the Marshal’s Office of the Masovian Voivodeship. This facility allows us to simulate operating conditions close to real ones. This is done by applying a vacuum system that maintains a constant vacuum level”, adds Dr. Eng. Paweł Surmacz.

 

 

The engine can be used both in future space platforms performing demanding service missions, as well as in the last stages of small launch vehicles (the so-called kick-stage). Łukasiewicz – Institute of Aviation is also gradually developing other propulsion solutions that can be used by spacecraft, designed for regular in-orbit service missions.

 

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