Boeing has successfully tested a new rocket thruster, just eight inches in length, that is now the most powerful engine of its type in the propulsion industry.
Developed by Boeing Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, California, the Divert and Attitude Control System (DACS) engine generated 1,100 pounds of thrust in hot-fire tests conducted recently at the White Sands Test Facility, New Mexico.
Creation of the DACS engine is aimed at meeting high-performance propulsion needs of the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI), North America’s next-generation missile defence concept.
‘The engine met all of the test objectives, while demonstrating efficient combustion performance,’ said Bill Burns, director, Missile Defense Propulsion Systems, for Boeing. ‘Our goal was to hit 1,100 pounds of thrust. Rocketdyne stands alone in achieving that performance level with a thruster of this size.’
The team ran two series of hot-fire tests. The first was conducted with a ‘workhorse’ thrust chamber, and demonstrated short pulse firings. Then, a second series put the near-flight configuration engine through its paces, reaching 115-percent of rated thrust.
‘When we reached 1,150 pounds, we knew we’d really accomplished something unique,’ added Bill Brown, lead project engineer, for Boeing. ‘The importance of attaining that goal is that the engine has multiple applications, including its use in kinetic energy weapon (KEW) divert propulsion systems.
‘There are four to eight engines per system,’ continued Brown. ‘It could also anchor a third-stage boost motor, or ‘kick stage’ engine for the final stage of a multi-stage missile. And there is the potential for the engine to be employed as part of a propulsion system for NASA’s Orbital Space Plane, now in development, along with other space platforms and strategic missiles.’
Characteristics of the new DACS rocket thruster include the ability to be turned on and off in any sequence to meet mission requirements, as commanded by the targeting, guidance, navigation and control system; very high specific impulse and thrust-to-weight-ratios; and highly reliable operation and low production costs.