Design of main propulsion system for a reusable suborbital rocket

Fraser McRoberts, Callum Harrower, Blair Hutchison, Wai Get Law, Frazer McLean, Ciara McGrath

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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In recent years there has been an increased interest in the use of CubeSats to perform research in the realms of microgravity and earth observation. Previously, CubeSats have generally been placed into orbit as secondary payloads, piggy-backing on the launches of larger spacecraft. This has meant that CubeSat orbits and launch schedules have been decided by the requirements of other missions, restricting the manner in which they can be used. Due to the lack of flexibility in mission design afforded by traditional launch options, and the increasing competition for CubeSat launch spots, it has become desirable to develop a dedicated small satellite launch platform. This would allow for the execution of more novel and exciting missions, utilising orbits specifically designed with small satellites in mind. Tranquility Aerospace Ltd are currently engaged in the design of a two-stage vertical take-off and landing (VTVL) launcher, aimed at the small satellite market. Due to the many engineering challenges involved, they are aiming to first develop a suborbital launch vehicle in order to test the technologies necessary. This launch vehicle will be single-stage, and capable of vertical take-off and landing. As a student project at the University of Strathclyde, the main rocket propulsion system for this vehicle is being designed. This paper will outline the development of the propulsion system, including the propellant feed system, injector plate, thrust chamber and thermal control system. The key design driver is to lower the overall system mass, including the mass of the propellant. Comparisons of the impact of different subsystem configurations on performance will be assessed and discussed, and a focus will be placed on aspects of the design impacted by the requirement for reusability. The goal is to produce a fully workable design which is ready for manufacture and can be taken forward to the testing phase of development.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2014
Event65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2014) - Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 29 Sep 20143 Oct 2014


Conference65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2014)


  • suborbital rocket
  • propulsion system
  • reusable rocket

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