By Brita Belli
Two Yale students who have built a hybrid rocket engine are scaling up and readying their motor for flight. Glen Meyerowitz (ES ’14), director of YPL, an on-campus propulsion lab, and Patrick Wilczynski (CC ’16), both previous members of the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association, have designed and tested a small-scale hybrid rocket motor that is 100 percent reusable, and are currently testing a larger version of the motor to prepare it for flight readiness. The project has received funding from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Venture Creation Program, which supports startups in their earliest idea stages and provides teams with expert mentorship. Others sources of support include the Yale School for Engineering and Applied Science and the Yale Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design.
Traditionally, when a rocket is blasted into outer space nearly all of its parts are destroyed in the process—including boosters, first stage engines and second stage engines. “Billions of dollars in equipment are lost to the ocean and the atmosphere,” says Meyerowitz. He adds: “Imagine if you were driving somewhere and throwing away parts as you get there. We’re trying to reuse parts of the rocket engine and increase overall efficiency.”
Their latest hybrid rocket motor—called the M2—uses a hollowed out PVC rod (a polyethylene rod was also tested) as the solid fuel and nitrous oxide as the oxidizer. Not only is it more efficient and reusable, but Meyerowitz says their motor design is safer as well. The team tested their motor in September at Yale’s West Campus Rocket Facility. They placed the motor in a stand, surrounded by concrete blocks, sent fuel in and watched as it ignited and flames shot out leaving a trail of black smoke. They captured the excitement in a series of videos on YouTube.
“In the upcoming weeks and months, I am hoping to perform a test of the system with a completely self-contained rocket motor,” Meyerowitz says. “This means the nitrous oxide will first fill a tank designed and built by us. This system will simulate actual performance of the motor, and a successful test here will indicate that the system is flight ready. I am also looking to expand the capabilities of the static test stand so that it can measure more variables than we are currently measuring.”
If he can help facilitate space travel for more people, Meyerowitz is on board. “I would be extremely interested in traveling into space,” he says.Read More