Cambridge University Spaceflight Fire Britain’s Largest Ever Nitrous Hybrid Rocket

Cambridge University Spaceflight (CUSF) have successfully completed the first static firing of their custom hybrid rocket engine. Over last 18 months the team have been working tirelessly on Project Pulsar, designing and building the Pulsar engine from scratch, culminating in the successful test this week at Airborne Engineering Ltd’s test facility.

Find more photographs of the test here.

The Pulsar engine burns Nitrous Oxide combined with High Density Polyethylene fuel to produce thrust for a total of 36 seconds. Over the course of the test, the engine produced a measured impulse of 53,855 Newton seconds giving it the largest impulse of any Nitrous Hybrid rocket ever fired in the UK.

A freak snow storm threatened to delay the test but the team powered through to fire the engine after dark resulting in some dramatic views, a melted plume of snow and novelty snowballs rolled from rocket exhaust gases. Extreme cold caused two of the cameras to shutdown, but footage from two of the remaining cameras is shown in the video below.

The Pulsar project was first conceived in 2017 when the society’s Martlet 3 rocket, designed to break the UK Amateur Rocketry Altitude Record, was destroyed in flight by the explosion of a commercial off-the-shelf rocket motor. While obviously a major setback for the Martlet 3 project, CUSF team members were inspired to see if they could build something better. The success of the Pulsar project, which has delivered more than double the designed impulse of Martlet 3 in this static firing, shows that CUSF are well on there way to doing just that. The test itself marks a key milestone in the next chapter of high power rocketry at CUSF with the Pulsar engine intended to power the Martlet 4 rocket project set to launch in 2020.

Cambridge University Spaceflight are extremely grateful to Airborne Engineering Ltd (and the many CUSF alumni who work there!) for letting us use their fantastic rocket test facilities and giving up their time to help us over the last few weeks. The test captured a huge amount of data which the team are hard at work trying to analyse in order to learn as much as possible about the Pulsar engine. Watch this space for a more detailed technical breakdown in the near future.


Notes to the editor:

Cambridge University Spaceflight (CUSF) are a student run engineering society made up of current undergraduates and PhD students at the University of Cambridge. Founded in 2006, CUSF have grown to become leaders in amateur rocketry and high altitude ballooning.