Third Test Cell for the European Research and Technology Test Bench P8

Firing tests of a LOX/methane combustion chamber have been conducted on the DLR P8 bench. (Credits: ArianeGroup)
  • DLR, CNES and ArianeGroup inaugurate the expansion of the European research and technology test bench P8.3 with a virtual celebration.
  • Whether science or industry – the P8.3 offers a unique research and innovation environment for liquid-chemical space propulsion and promotes the fast industrial application of innovative technologies of future propulsion systems.
  • Operation with different fuel combinations.
  • Development and validation of demonstrators with different levels of technology maturity possible.

LAMPODSHAUSEN, Germany (DLR PR) — The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the French Space Agency Center National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the company ArianeGroup the European research and technology test bench P8 expanded. The partners opened the new P8.3 test cell on April 14, 2021 as part of a virtual celebration. 

With the expansion, DLR has created the prerequisites for future space propulsion systems to be developed and tested almost entirely at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen. DLR Lampoldshausen has unique skills, infrastructure and many years of experience in this area. The interaction between research and development creates important synergies and strengthens engine expertise as an important pillar of European space transport.

Boost for Franco-German technology partnership

“Bringing new technologies into use quickly is best achieved through direct exchange between science and industry and in close cooperation between research and technology development.  Together with our partners CNES and ArianeGroup, we have been shaping this cooperation on the European research and technology test bench P8 for many years. The expansion of the facility further intensifies the mutual transfer of knowledge and provides important impulses for the development of future space propulsion systems,” explains Prof. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, CEO of DLR.

P8.3 – More flexibility and competitiveness in the development of space propulsion systems. (Credit: Fichtner)

“The new P8.3 test cell will be an important building block for the preparation of future European launch vehicles, which will certainly use liquid and reusable propulsion systems on a large scale,” says Jean-Marc Astorg, Director of Launchers, CNES, and adds: “Hence We look forward to continuing and expanding our excellent long-term cooperation with DLR in the areas of research and technology in order to support the use of the existing launch vehicles and prepare the new generation of European launch vehicles.”

In his welcoming address, Pierre Godart, CEO of ArianeGroup Germany, added: “The P8 test bench is a perfect example of European cooperation: it was developed as a joint test bench from the start. Now, with the P8.3, we have gone one step further – this test bench even requires European projects that are tested here in cross-border teams. Because cooperation is the key to Europe’s success in space. “

Applying technologies

The P8 test stand at DLR in Lampoldshausen has been a reliable platform for engine development for over 25 years: every year, engineers test technology demonstrators there on around 80 days of testing. The work on liquid-chemical space propulsion covers the entire spectrum of the technology readiness level (TRL) 1 to 9: from the functional principle to testing and qualification for use. 

“This facility is a unique infrastructure in Europe for preparing the technology for future launchers and a significant contribution by DLR to the development of the Ariane launch vehicle family,” emphasizes Prof. Hansjörg Dittus, member of the DLR Board of Directors for Space Research and Technology. With the new test cell P8.

Targeted expansion of the research infrastructure with a focus on complete engine systems

The DLR site in Lampoldshausen has always been an integral part of European space transport – as a research and test center for all liquid-chemical space propulsion systems. 

“With the construction of the third test cell, we will in future be able not only to test individual components, but also to research the interaction of all components of a rocket engine – from the combustion chamber to the turbo pumps to the valves – with a thrust of up to 7 , 5 tons ”, says Prof. Stefan Schlechtriem, director of the DLR Institute for Space Propulsion and adds: “The transition to the overall system is a unique selling point that we have established in the DLR LUMEN project.”

As part of LUMEN (Liquid Upper Stage Demonstrator Engine), DLR researchers are developing and testing a pump-fed LOX / methane engine. The LUMEN project has the entire system of a cryogenic engine in view and builds up the necessary technical and project expertise.

Bundling forces for the next generation of engines

Before the end of this year, the CNES research engine, “Boreas”, and the DLR technology demonstrator LUMEN will be the first test vehicles to be tested on the new P8.3 facility. On the basis of these results, the aim is to design a joint Franco-German technology demonstrator that will prepare the European goals in space transport from the basics to industrial use. 

In the medium term, the DLR engineers are planning to operate the P8 test bench with green hydrogen produced directly at the Lampoldshausen site. The basis for this was laid by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics, Labor and Housing with a grant in 2020. The Ministry is thus funding the project “Zero Emission – Lampoldshausen Hydrogen Location”,