The P8 test rig at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Space Propulsion in Lampoldshausen was built in 1995 as part of a European partnership between SEP (now the French engine maker SNECMA), DASA (now ArianeGroup), the French space agency CNES and DLR. The facility was created to test rocket engines using various propellants, including gaseous and liquid hydrogen, oxygen, and gaseous and liquid methane. With its two identical test cells, P8 is available for experiments 100 days per year, divided between the partners according to agreed funding shares. With the commissioning of a third test cell in 2020, it will be possible to study the performance of complete rocket engine cycles and enhance international collaboration.
This large-scale research facility is considered to be unique in Europe thanks to its quick, precise mass flow control and operating pressures of up to 360 bar.
With the P8 test rig it is possible to test and develop rocket engines and various engine operating cycles, as well as to optically evaluate combustion processes to verify modelling programmes. Novel designs and manufacturing processes can be tested using subscale examples, and full-scale components can be qualified for flight.
Almost all parameters can be set to represent real flight conditions, up to and including the vacuum of space, thanks to an altitude simulation system. The P8 test rig is therefore able to evaluate rocket engines, system components or test rig components, including turbopumps and noise dampers. It also supports experimental work undertaken by PhD candidates.
The new P8.3 test cell will enable further testing of complete propulsion systems and individual turbopumps on a subscale basis with hydrogen and methane fuels.