• Aiming high

    Aiming high

    Postgraduate students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa have successfully tested their own prototype rocket engine for launching satellites into orbit.

    Masters and doctoral mechanical engineering students at the university’s Aerospace Systems Research Group designed the liquid propellant rocket engine, called the Ablative Blow-down Liquid Engine (ABLE), as part of a project to develop a commercial launch vehicle capable of sending satellites of up to 200 kg into orbit.

    Space in Africa reports that ABLE’s success enables the group to now develop a flight-weight engine to power the proposed rocket. As well as the engine, the students designed and qualified a state-of-the-art test facility with propellant storage tanks, an automated engine control system, and a thrust stand to restrain the engine throughout its operation.

    According to UKZN, the successful test will enable the university to ‘accelerate the development of a commercial launch vehicle. The ultimate goals are to create an African satellite launch capability, support South Africa’s indigenous satellite and space data industries, and boost the country’s fourth industrial revolution readiness’.

    The test was conducted over three weeks at the Denel Overberg test range in the Western Cape.

    14 December 2021
    Image: University of KwaZulu-Natal