ESA projects

Development of a catalytic bed for the 1N thruster

Together with the Warsaw University of Technology and the Institute of Aviation – Łukasiewicz Research Network, the project includes the development of the 1N thruster structure powered by 98% concentrated hydrogen peroxide (HTP). Catalyst beds are the key components of any single-component chemical propulsion (monopropellant) for rocket engines. The traditional silver catalyst has been used successfully with hydrogen peroxide for 60 years. However, the silver catalyst cannot be used in concentrations higher than 90-92% due to the adiabatic decomposition temperature of hydrogen peroxide, which is close to the melting point of silver and causes the sintering effect and formation of silver oxide which lowers the catalytic properties. One of the catalyst beds considered is the use of manganese oxides – MnOx / Al2O3 (sometimes mixed with cobalt oxides) deposited on a suitable ceramic support (e.g. alumina). Other types of such catalysts are also possible, for example honeycombed (MnOx / 2MgO / 2Al2O3 / 5SiO2). The key objective of the project is to develop a catalyst bed for the 1N engine powered by HTP monopropellant – 98% hydrogen peroxide.

 

Optimization of passivation parameters for selected aluminum alloys

The aim of the project is to produce protective coatings by chemical methods and to check their durability in contact with hydrogen peroxide. The subject of research are mainly light aluminum and lithium alloys with potential applications in the space industry. Material samples will be subject to, among others immersion testing, corrosion testing and surface imaging with an electron microscope (SEM). Moreover, the influence of passivated material on hydrogen peroxide will be checked, its stability and metal content will be determined by means of atomic emission spectrometry with excitation in induced plasma.

 

Safety Validation Testing

Jakusz SpaceTech has a unique production line for the production of high-purity 98% hydrogen peroxide, in accordance with the requirements of the restrictive MIL-PRF-16005F standard. Currently, hydrogen peroxide is available on the European market with a concentration of no more than 87% with a purity that does not meet the requirements of the standard. Hydrogen peroxide is a relatively stable substance, but only if it is of high purity and stabilized with appropriate compounds. Small amounts of pollutants can induce the degradation of HTP into water and oxygen. Therefore, special cleanliness and care should be taken during the production process. In order to avoid excessive decomposition and hence a decrease in the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, appropriate stabilizers are added to the solution during both transport and storage. Although the addition of stabilizers is necessary to maintain the desired stability of the hydrogen peroxide, their amount must not be exceeded for two reasons. Firstly, above a certain optimum, a decrease in HTP stability can be observed, and secondly – which is important in the case of rocket engines – any additional substances may deposit on the catalyst causing its deactivation. Taking the above premises into account, the optimal composition of the stabilizer blend was developed as part of the project, ensuring high stability of hydrogen peroxide.

 

Compatibility Verification

The project investigated the effect of 98% concentrated hydrogen peroxide (HTP) on a number of specialized materials used in the space industry, which are used in the manufacture of tanks, pipelines or seals. It will be checked, among others whether the material is corroding, whether its mechanical properties change, and whether it does not adversely affect the stability of the peroxide. As a result of contact with certain materials, such as iron, steel or titanium, it may undergo accelerated decomposition. Moreover, hydrogen peroxide is a corrosive and strongly oxidizing compound may cause corrosion and degradation of some materials, especially plastics and rubber. A number of tests were carried out on the safety of storage and use of hydrogen peroxide. Among them, the influence on its stability was determined for such factors as: radioactive radiation that may occur in space; vibrations and vibrations occurring during the operation of a rocket engine; contaminants that can enter the fluid by “washing” them out of the material. The project also included an analysis of the transport law, on the basis of which the product was classified and certified for transport packaging.