Reinventing Rocket Testing

Engineers with Air Force Research Lab’s Det. 7, at Edwards AFB, Calif., are introducing a new paradigm in rocket testing as they evaluate a novel turbo pump designed for liquid-fueled rocket motors. In the past, AFRL would often test completely built rocket engines in the hope of collecting enough data before the engines exploded and the components were lost. Now the focus is on utilizing computer simulations and heavily instrumented components to collect data more efficiently. “What we’re doing is taking the ‘build them and bust them’ days of rocket testing and moving . . . into heavy integration and modeling simulation,” said Shawn Phillips, deputy chief of AFRL’s space and missile propulsion division. This approach means that the pump may require only a fraction of the tests formerly required on an actual rocket engine before advancing to its next developmental phase. (Edwards release by Kenji Thuloweit)