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California State University, Long Beach

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (MAE)

CSULB Develops Thruster Test Stand to Evaluate Advanced Liquid Propellants

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), supported Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC), Redondo Beach, Calif., and Ogden Engineering & Associates, LLC (OE&A), Tucson, Arizona in the ignition characterization of a Hypergolic Green Fuel (HGF) for future advanced missile and space propulsion applications. The HGF, a proprietary formulation developed by OE&A, was tested with the oxidizer MON-3 in one of Northrop Grumman’s 5lbf-thrusters at the company’s Capistrano Test Site near San Clemente, Calif. in November 2009. A test stand developed by CSULB was utilized for the project to provide characterization testing for the HGF/MON-3 propellant combination. The testing included the determination of ignition delay time as functions of propellant and chamber preheat temperature as well as the determination of performance trends over a range or mixture ratios.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), which funded the project through a multi-phase Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) effort to OE&A, is interested in advanced propellant formulations that could offer a combination of improved performance and reduced toxicity compared with traditional storable bi-propellants.

Under the leadership of project manager and senior Mechanical Engineering student Daniel Southard and Prof. Eric Besnard, CSULB designed and built the bi-propellant test stand and associated control electronics and software in less than three months. CSULB also played a key support role during testing, with CSULB students, staff and faculty assisting in the operation of the test stand. Dan reflects on his work during the project "The reason I decided to attend CSULB was for the opportunity to gain real world experience prior to graduation. The development of the test stand and chance to support test operations provided an excellent opportunity to apply what I'm learning in class plus a great learning experience in its own right."

This collaborative effort between CSULB, Northrop Grumman and OE&A was essential to accomplish the testing within the available budget of the SBIR program. The CSULB test stand has been cleaned and is currently stored at CSULB. It’s available for conducting further cost effective research in advanced space propulsion.

p-10 vehicle
CSULB student Christopher Anderson (right) and Northrop Grumman Engineer Victor Zankich set up the oxidizer pressure regulator.
p-10 vehicle team
“Hypergolic Green Fuel” side of the test stand
p-10 final preperations
Oxidizer (MON-3) side of the test stand
p-10 close up
CSULB student and Project Manager Daniel Southard at the controls
p-10 lift off
Ignition of the 5 lbf engine
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