Lift-off! Student-made rocket fuel successfully tested at Embry-Riddle | Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

It was a moment of 11 years in the making – back when the Project Prometheus initiative was launched in 2011 with the goal of making functional solid rocket fuel at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – but The wait paid off last week when engineering students successfully tested artificial fuel at the Daytona Beach campus.

They bolted their engine, counted down from five, and pressed Fire. The jet of flames from the back of their test engine marked their success, and its roar was followed by cheers from the search party.

“It’s a rare opportunity that few people get,” said Andy Blum, a young aerospace engineer who leads the project team. “It takes a long time to design, manufacture and test a [solid rocket] engine.”

What started as a senior design project by a student in 2011 later morphed into an Embry-Riddle Future Space Explorers and Developers (“the Rocket Club”) team project. The direction changed over the years and in 2018 the project restarted, Blum said. A new formula was developed using synthetic rubber, aluminum powder and other ingredients found in high-powered commercial fuels, new procedures were developed and the team embarked on further analysis. ingredients that make up their fuel.

“When I started in 2021, we had to restart again,” Blum added. “I really didn’t know much about the project, and we lost valuable knowledge and progress during the Covid-19 disruption.”

The recall shot on the back of this test engine confirmed that the hard work of the team had paid off. The fuel test was conducted in late September at the Aviation Maintenance Science Test Facility on the Daytona Beach campus of Embry-Riddle. (Photo: Andy Blum)

This year, however, the Prometheus Project finally took off. He formed a dedicated research sub-team that aimed not only to keep a more detailed record of the team’s research and development for future members, but also to bring meaningful data to the field through experiences, published research and tests like the one recently conducted.

“I learned a lot of technical knowledge, but the most important lessons were leadership, problem solving, communication, attention to detail and attitude,” said Blum, who hopes to land a job in space exploration after graduating. . “Having been through such a difficult project like this, I feel really ready to take on the challenges of my career.”

The team consists of approximately 20 members, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, and is advised by aerospace engineering professor Dr. Eric Royce Perrell.

“Then testing will be done with increasingly larger engines to assess scalability,” Perrell said. “Ultimately, the goal is to fly Rocket Club rockets on in-house developed engines.”

Future space explorers and developers Embry-Riddle plan to launch a rocket with a large student research and development engine during the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition, an annual event at Spaceport America, New Mexico, which attracts more than 100 universities from around the world.

Ultimately, however, Project Prometheus is less about competition and more about preparation – preparing the next generation of space explorers for practical careers in industry and preparing them to do that work in the safest way possible. .

“I love seeing my team members grow,” Blum said. “We are constantly running into problems, and watching people learn to think creatively or outside the box is pretty impressive.

“We have come a long way,” he added. “Embry-Riddle’s incredible environmental health and safety department and overall aviation safety culture helps prioritize progress while maintaining a safe environment for all.”

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