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Center Innovation Fund: GRC CIF

Compact Microtube Igniter for Methane Rockets

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

Compact Microtube Igniter for Methane Rockets
This project seeks to facilitate the Evolvable Mars Campaign (EMC) LOX/Methane Propulsion Architecture by developing a reliable, compact, low power methane igniter. One of the key technical challenges to the use of oxygen-methane is the demonstration of reliable ignition over the potential operating envelope of Reaction Control system (RCS) thrusters. These thrusters have a minimum impulse bit and widely varying duty cycles. Reliable and repeatable demonstrations of cold start and restart with heat soak-back are required to mitigate the risk. Recent tests with the Integrated Cryogenic Propulsion Test Article (ICPTA) at Plumb Brook Station reveal that it is difficult to light the LOX/Methane reaction control engines after cold soak with the spark torch. Multiple attempts were made, but in all but one case the result was a cold flow test with no ignition. Alternative and redundant catalytic ignition systems will have alternative failure modes, draw less power, negate the high voltage discharge and sizable exciter hardware that spark systems require and can eliminate common cause failure modes to provide an additional layer of safety to the manned missions. The goal is to provide critical ignition technology for oxygen-methane propulsion for reliable spacecraft propulsion. More »

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