Research & Development

Static Fire Test of 500 lbf Thrust-Class LOX/Propylene Engine conducted on March 6, 2004

The CALVEIN team conducted a static fire test of a 500 lbf-class rocket engine using LOX and propylene as propellants on Sat. March 6 at the Mojave Test Area. Propylene is being considered because it offers slightly higher ISP than RP-1, can be cryogenically chilled to get approximately the same density as kerosene, and is more environmentally friendly as well as more easily available than RP-1.

rocket engine burn 1 sec. after ignition

Approx.1 second after ignition (Photo by Eric Besnard)

This initial LOX/propylene test validated propylene handling and loading procedures under ambient temperatures and helped assess the ability of low-cost ablative chambers to handle the higher combustion temperatures of LOX/propylene (approx. 500 K higher than LOX/ethanol or LOX/LH2). Two 8-second static fire tests were conducted:

In addition to propulsion, the team also utilized improved command and data acquisition techniques which were originally developed for the Prospector-3 vehicle.

Such test validation is an important risk mitigation milestone for several technologies and capabilities that have been baselined for the Nanosat Launch Vehicle (NLV) concept being jointly developed by Garvey Spacecraft Corporation and CSULB. This NLV would be capable of delivering a 10 kg spacecraft to LEO.

Preliminary plans now call for an iteration of the pintle injector, followed by another static fire test to come as soon as we can schedule time again out at the MTA.

In parallel, we are now incorporating lessons learned from the software and EGSE back into the Prospector 3 effort. Most significantly, the ability to monitor gyro and accel trend data in real-time using new operator client software should greatly enhance development activities.

And finally, work is continuing with CSULB students who are developing a full-scale mockup of the proposed NLV this spring.

In addition to the CALVEIN static fire test, the San Diego State University / Flometrics team also conducted the launch of their large LOX/kerosene Phoenix.

Close-ups during the burn     Close-ups during the burn

Close-ups during the burn (Photo & Copyright by K. Mark Caviezel, March 2004)

Special thanks

In addition to the "regulars" (mentors John Engberg, David Garza, Dave McCue, Mike Novratil, Chuck Castillo and Mark Holthaus), the CALVEIN team would also like to recognize the following individuals who, through their support, made this test a success. First , K. Mark Caviezel who suggested the use of propylene in Dec.2003 after conducting a NASA SBIR on the topic. He was instrumental in providing insight related to its handling and use and even flew from Colorado to attend the static test. Also, thank you to the Flometrics/SDSU for handling the LOX logistics and to Dave Crisalli, President of the RRS, for giving the CALVEIN team access to the MTA and overseeing test operations.

For additional information about either the CALVEIN project and/or the cooperative program between CSULB and Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, please contact the following project representatives:

  • Dr. Eric Besnard
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Dept.
  • California State University, Long Beach
  • 1250 Bellflower Blvd Long Beach, CA 90840
  • Tel:(562) 985-5442
  • Fax:(562) 985-1669
  • John Garvey
  • Garvey Spacecraft Corporation
  • 389 Haines Avenue
  • Long Beach, CA 90840-1841
  • Tel:(562)-498-2984
  • Email: