The DLR Institute of Space Propulsion is part of the European Commission’s “ENLIGHTEN” (European iNitative for Low cost, Innovative & Green High Thrust Engine) project within the innovation funding program “Horizon Europe” and led by the space company ArianeGroup. The aim is to combine know-how from the space industry, research institutes and start-ups to accelerate the development and introduction of technologies for reusable engines and bring them to a technology readiness level (TRL) 6. This is equivalent to operating a prototype or technology in the targeted operational environment.
With a project duration of three years and a project share of approximately 1 million euros, the institute is participating with three main research areas: “Laser Ignition”, “Artificial Intelligence” and the “possible integration of an engine demonstrator at the test facility P5” on the DLR site in Lampoldshausen.
Laser ignition and Artificial Intelligence as key elements
The focus of the research area “Laser Ignition” is the further development and thus the increase of the TRL of fibre-based laser ignition to level 6. Tests are being conducted with representative flight hardware components at the test facility M3.1 and the research and development test facility P8 in order to be able to ignite several combustion chambers with only one ignition system in the future. The so-called “Multiplexed Laser Ignition System” (MLIS) is a key element for the new generation of reusable engines with multiple identical liquid engines, each of which can be ignited multiple times and independently of one another using this igniter technology.
The goal of the “Artificial Intelligence” research area is the integration of a health monitoring system as a main function of the next generation of reusable launcher. In this context, autonomous fault detection strategies based on external sensor signals for propulsion systems are being developed and tested.
In the third research area, DLR engineers analyse a “possible integration of the engine demonstrator for the P5 test facility” on the DLR site in Lampoldshausen.
“Horizon Europe” is the European Commission’s main funding programme for research and innovation with the aim of combating climate change, achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and promoting EU competitiveness and growth.