31. August 2021
New, flexible test infrastructure for space propulsion systems

DLR Lam­pold­shausen pre­pares P5 test stand for the tech­nolo­gies of the fu­ture

Methane tank hangs over DLR's Lampoldshausen site
Methane tank hangs over DLR's Lam­pold­shausen site
Image 1/3, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Methane tank hangs over DLR's Lampoldshausen site

A spe­cial crane hoist­ed the methane tank in­to its fi­nal po­si­tion at the ESA P5 large-scale test stand. The tank is 20 me­tres high, has a di­am­e­ter of 4.6 me­tres and holds ap­prox­i­mate­ly 208 cu­bic me­tres of liq­uid methane.
Installation of the methane tank in the ESA P5 test stand
In­stal­la­tion of the methane tank in the ESA P5 test stand
Image 2/3, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Installation of the methane tank in the ESA P5 test stand

The up­grad­ed test fa­cil­i­ty at DLR Lam­pold­shausen is con­tin­u­ing to take shape. In Au­gust 2021, the methane tank was moved in­to its fi­nal po­si­tion. From mid-2022, tests of rock­et en­gines with the pro­pel­lant com­bi­na­tion of liq­uid oxy­gen and methane will be pos­si­ble on the ESA P5 large-scale test stand.
Methane tank ex­tends the test in­fras­truc­ture at DLR Lam­pold­shausen
Video 3/3, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Methane tank extends the test infrastructure at DLR Lampoldshausen

Length: 00:00:57
With the ex­ten­sive con­struc­tion work at the ESA P5 test stand, DLR is cre­at­ing new pos­si­bil­i­ties for test­ing the next gen­er­a­tions of propul­sion sys­tems in Lam­pold­shausen.
  • DLR is enhancing and modernising the test infrastructure at its Lampoldshausen site with the upgrading and expansion of the ESA P5 large-scale test stand.
  • The installation of a methane tank is an important milestone.
  • In future, this will make it possible to test rocket propulsion systems with the propellant combination of liquid oxygen and methane.
  • The commissioning of the upgraded ESA P5 test stand is scheduled for 2022.
  • Focus: Space transport, rocket propulsion, technology development

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is preparing a central component of its extensive test infrastructure for the future by expanding the European Space Agency (ESA) P5 large-scale test stand at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen. This means that the next generation of space propulsion systems can also be tested under flexible and reliable conditions.

The 65-metre-high building of ESA's P5 test stand towers over the DLR site. Inside, it has housed unique high-tech equipment since it was commissioned in 1990. It has long since earned international recognition and it played a central role in the development of the Vulcain engines for the European launch vehicles Ariane 5 and 6. Recently, DLR engineers used it to qualify Ariane 6's advanced Vulcain 2.1 main stage engine for flight.

Ready for new propellant combinations – including methane

Prometheus engine
Prometheus engine
The Prometheus engine is intended to be particularly cost-effective and also reusable. It is expected to reduce the cost of the current Vulcain 2 engine used on the Ariane 5 by a factor of 10. ArianeGroup is developing and building the engine.
Credit: ©ArianeGroup

A DLR team is now preparing ESA’s P5 test stand for its new task. The installation of a methane tank was an important milestone during the extensive construction work. The tank is 20 metres high, has a diameter of 4.6 metres and holds approximately 208 cubic metres of liquid methane. From 2022 onwards, a completely new generation of propulsion systems, developed and manufactured by ArianeGroup, will be tested on the P5 stand – starting with the Prometheus engine. This will be a fundamental component of a future European launcher. The propellants used are liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid methane (LCH4). The combination of several Prometheus engines in the first stage will deliver sufficient thrust to allow the previously used solid-fuel boosters to be dispensed with.

Focusing on the future – flexible and efficient testing, including the new generations of propulsion systems

After upgrading and enhancement, ESA's P5 large-scale test stand will be one of the most modern and flexible test facilities of its kind. "The installation of the methane tank is an important step in this process. I am excited to see this strategically important European test infrastructure complete and ready for testing as soon as possible," said Stefan Schlechtriem, Director of the DLR Institute of Space Propulsion. The upgraded and enhanced test stand will make it possible to test several propellant combinations and switch between them quickly. Tests will be able to be carried out with the traditional combination of liquid oxygen and hydrogen as well as with the combination of liquid oxygen and methane. "This will allow us to expand our testing capabilities and maintain flexible use of the test stands," explained Schlechtriem. In this way, DLR is supporting the rapid and smooth transition to propellants for the next generation of launchers.

Space propulsion of tomorrow – more variety, new fuels and technologies

Every launch vehicle requires powerful and reliable engines. For a future European launch vehicle, this will be the Prometheus engine. It is intended to be reusable and its production costs should drop significantly in the long term. To achieve this, the development teams are relying on innovative approaches, which include 3D printing processes, digital engine control with artificial intelligence and the aforementioned new propellant combination. Investment in the development of the Prometheus engine will ensure safe and cost-effective European access to space in the future, especially after Ariane 6 reaches the end of its operational lifetime.

  • Anja Kaboth
    Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Lam­pold­shausen
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Pub­lic Af­fairs and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 6298 28-201
    Fax: +49 6298 28-112
    Im Langen Grund
    74239 Hardthausen
  • Andreas Schütz
    DLR Spokesper­son, Head of Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-2474
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Schlechtriem
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Space Propul­sion
    Telephone: +49 6298 28-203
    Im Langen Grund
    74239 Hardthausen


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