The Liquid Research Team, Ian Chandra, Brian Terasaki, Patrick Imper, Luke Wybourn, Colton Acosta, Cody Gilbreath, Benjamin Ouellette, and Katie Herrington, were the first group of students at ASU to successfully hot fire a liquid rocket engine.
The project started around Fall 2019 when the initial stages of research and development of the engine and infrastructure began. After the Preliminary Design Review took place in Spring 2020, the team received feedback and the design approach and solutions. Despite COVID, the project was able to survive due to the majority of the work being design and analysis; something that could be done online. The Summer and Fall of 2020 and part of the Spring of 2021 were spent mostly on Zoom doing design work. During that time, the team got a lot of advice and help from ASU professors and people in the industry on the design. Their guidance helped areas where they might have lacked knowledge or possible issues that were overlooked.
During Spring 2022, the manufacturing and water flow testing of the rocket engine injector took place. This part was one of the most important parts of a rocket engine. This was a key point in this project where the team was finally able to see results. This past summer, they manufactured the rocket engine chamber and nozzle.
The team had no experience in welding and expertise in cryogenics. They had no regulatory approval and on-site testing infrastructure. Within those two semesters, they managed to manufacture the test stand, plumbing system, and avionics. They learned how to weld with help from members Formula SAE team, gained access to Liquid Nitrogen on campus, and were able to gain familiarity with it. Next, they integrated all of the systems together and were able to perform multiple high-pressure water flow tests and a cryogenic water-liquid nitrogen cold flow. They got approval to get infrastructure at the test site, and get regulatory approvals and permits to test the engine. All of this was only possible because the team pushed super hard throughout the entire semester.
On May 12th, the team was able to successfully ignite the engine and produce nearly 270lbf of thrust for around ¼ of a second. There was a structure failure on bolts that held the engine hardware together, resulting in the unplanned ejection of the engine. No other hardware was damaged during the test, not even the engine itself.
This team was the first successful ignition and test of a liquid bi-propellant rocket engine by an ASU collegiate organization. The data and knowledge from this test will pave the way for future tests.