The DLR-Institute of Space Propulsion has unique expertise in Europe in the development and operation of test facilities. Since 1959, engines for rockets and space propulsion systems have been tested and further developed at the site Lampoldshausen. This research is part of the European space program. With the Ariane launcher family, Europe is in a position to independently launch satellites into orbit for a wide variety of applications, thus securing competitive and independent access to space. This is a pre-requisite for the unrestricted use of satellite data.
High-performance test facility technology
The test facilities are a fundamental pre-requisite for developing engine technologies to operational maturity and ensuring their quality. With the P4 altitude simulation test bench, DLR is indispensable for the development of the Vinci upper stage engine, which will be the most powerful engine in Europe in the future. Tests for the new, re-ignitable Ariane 6 Vinci upper stage engine are currently ongoing. After many years of development, the aim of this campaign is to define Vinci's final design for the qualification campaigns to follow from 2017. With the help of these tests, DLR scientists will gain insights into the engine behaviour, which will be used by the manufacturer ArianeGroup for final optimisations.
Vinci – the propulsion system for the next generation of launchers
The Vinci engine, which is powered by a high-energy combination of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, will power the upper stage of the new European Ariane 6 launcher. ArianeGroup is the industrial prime contractor for the future Ariane 6 launch vehicle. The development contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) was signed on 12 August 2015. The maiden flight of Ariane 6 is expected to take place in 2020 - Ariane 5 is to be deployed in parallel until 2023 and will end its service after more than 25 years.
Scientific expertise and unique test facilities to develop the Ariane 6
DLR Lampoldshausen is also currently building the P5.2 test facility on behalf of ESA for testing the future upper stage of the new Ariane 6 launch vehicle. These include tests on refuelling and defuelling as well as hot run tests of the stage with the Vinci engine. It will help DLR in Lampoldshausen to qualify not only engines and individual components, but also complete cryogenic upper stages. This new upper stage test facility, scheduled for completion in 2018, ideally complements DLR's test and inspection facilities.
Technologies for the next generation of engines
In addition to the development and operation of test facilities, DLR scientists are researching advanced technologies for future space engines on the P8 technology test facility. The research focuses on the investigation of the injection of fuel components, their mixing and combustion, the expansion of hot gases in the nozzle and the thermal loading of the combustion chamber structures. The experimental investigations of these individual processes are carried out by the scientists with the aid of model combustion chambers in which realistic conditions prevail for rocket engines. An in-depth understanding of these processes is the basic pre-requisite for an optimal design of future engines.