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Successful Static Test of German/Brazilian S50 Rocket Engine with DLR Participation

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 15, 2021
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S50 solid rocket motor during static burn test in Brazil. (Credit: ©DCTA/IAE)
  • Brazil is working together with DLR on the development of rocket motors and subsystems.
  • The S50 solid rocket motor will form the first two stages of the Brazilian VLM-1 launcher and the first stage of the European VS-50 sounding rocket.
  • The first successful static burn test of an S50 solid rocket engine was carried out in Brazil on October 1, 2021.

SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil (DLR PR) — On October 1, 2021, an S50 solid rocket motor successfully passed a static burn test on the Usina Coronel Abner (UCA) premises in São José dos Campos in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. In the future, these solid-fuel motors will power the first two stages of the new Brazilian VLM-1 launcher for microsatellites. The test was conducted by a technical team from the Brazilian Aerospace Institute (IAE) on behalf of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and the Brazilian Ministry of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA). As part of the long-term cooperation between Brazil and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the now tried and tested rocket motor is being used in a new sounding rocket for Europe.

“The high-performance S50 solid rocket engine will in future be available for technology testing and development in the fields of space travel and hypersonic research,” says Dr. Rainer Kirchhartz, Head of the Mobile Missile Base Department, DLR space operations and astronaut training. “In addition, technologies and components in the area of ​​the reusability of systems are tested. In addition, the new sounding rocket, which is currently being developed, can itself be used for testing control strategies and for questions relating to materials science. Test flights are possible in realistic size scales for space systems. “

Preparation of the S50 engine for the static burn test. (Credit: ©DCTA/IAE)

New technology for more efficiency

At 12 tons of solid propellant, the S50 engine is the largest rocket engine ever made in Brazil and uses innovative technologies such as the use of carbon fiber reinforced composites for the engine case that make it lighter and more efficient. The first launch of a carrier with this new engine is scheduled for 2023 from the Alcântara Space Center (CEA).

The static burning attempt lasted 84 seconds. The engineers tested the behavior of the engine during the test run. Successful completion was decisive for the final development phases of the S50 engine. This will offer Brazil new opportunities for the use of suborbital rockets and microsatellites as part of the microsatellite launch vehicle project (VLM-1).

Sounding rockets for experiments in weightlessness

In particular, the scientific community will also benefit from the technical potential of the engine in the context of the rocket research platforms. Sounding rockets give scientists independent and regular access to experiments under space conditions, for example in weightlessness. They reach a height of up to 270 kilometers and thus allow around 6 minutes of weightlessness before they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. The new VS-50 sounding rocket, which was developed by the Mobile missile base of the DLR is developed and started, experiment times of up to 30 minutes in weightlessness and hypersonic conditions of up to Mach 15 are made available to the scientific community.

Prof. Dr. Felix Huber, Director of DLR Space Operations and Astronaut Training, took part in the test and then said: “This important milestone in the project was decisive for the next steps on the way to flight experiments for reusable technologies. We will work with our partner at full speed to enable the flight qualification of the VS-50 sounding rocket as the next step. “

S50 solid rocket motor

The development of the S50 solid rocket motor is funded by the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) and supported by the Foundation for Space Science, Applications and Technologies (FUNCATE). The engine was manufactured by Avibras Indústria Aeroespacial S / A.