Motor test facilities

With the increased demands for a practical motor test facility, by project students and for PhD research, there was a need to improve what we had.

Modular test cell

We have installed a modular test cell, with full extraction and noise-control systems, together with a custom-designed control system for motor firing, and dedicated instrumentation. It represents an investment of over £37,000.

It will allow firings of a wide range of composite and hybrid motors, with video recording and comprehensive instrumentation setups. In the future, it is planned to offer this facility for motor certification, one of few such facilities outside North America.

The cell measures approximately 3 by 2 metres, and 3 metres high, allowing plenty of room for long motors. It will have a dedicated 55-litre nitrous oxide cylinder, although there is also a nitrous oxide pump to allow us to refill our smaller cylinders from this one.

We will also have oxygen and nitrogen cylinders - the oxygen is for the ignition of some hybrid motors, whilst the nitrogen provides a purge facility, mainly for the research firings. All of the firings can be controlled from a single panel, which is fully interlocked to the door and extraction systems.

A calibrated load cell provides accurate thrust measurement, captured on a computer to give thrust curves. The cell and the measuring system allows for firings up to M impulse (10,000 newton-seconds), with thrusts of up to 5000N (1/2 tonne). We will install nitrous oxide flow-metering systems, as well as systems to measure combustion pressures and other parameters.

Since the test cell does not have windows, 2 high-definition video cameras are being installed, and a large HD TV screen has been purchased and will be mounted on the wall by the control panel.

The cameras have hard drives inside them, and it will be possible to transfer video onto optical media. The high-definition output will allow for control of the motor firings and for lab classes to be carried out using the cell.