ILR-33 rocket “Amber”

Rakieta ILR-33 "Bursztyn". Fot. Instytut Lotnictwa | ILR-33 rocket “Amber”. Photo credit: Institute of Aviation

The test rocket ILR-33 “Amber” indicates that Poland has the human resources and technological facilities, in addition to working on the construction of satellites or participation in research projects for the ESA, to also take part in advanced work related to rocket technologies.

Polish participation in space technologies mainly concerns the so-called downstream segment, which is space technology applications, mainly various types of satellite data on Earth. Polish capabilities in the upstream segment (production of aerospace equipment, satellite rockets, delivery to space services, etc.) are limited, but Poles have already engaged in the construction of satellites and prepared a number of components for different European Space Agency missions.

In October 2017, meanwhile, the rocket ILR-33 “Amber”, which rose to a height of 15 km, had a successful test. The ceiling has been deliberately limited due to regulations. The rocket, with a length of 5 m and a diameter of 23 cm is able to rise to a height of up to 100 km, or reach the edge of outer space. The ILR-33 “Amber” rocket is a construction in which the first parallel stage is two booster engines on solid propellant. They are characterized by a maximum power value of 6000 N.

“Their job is to give the rocket the correct speed during the initial phase of rocket flight. After their work, the boosters are automatically separated by the action of aerodynamic forces.The main stage is driven by an innovative hybrid engine that uses highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide (HTP 98%+) as an oxidizer and polyethylene as the fuel,” explains Eng. Bartosz Bartkowiak, chief designer of the rocket. Such a concentrated oxidizer allows enhanced performance and simultaneous weight reduction to be obtained. The solution a worldwide first. “The ILR-33 rocket is the first in the world using such a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide. It thereby beats making German, British, American and the recent South Korean solutions. The oxidant is safe and environmentally friendly, thereby reducing costs compared to other rocket oxidants stored at ambient temperature,” say the builders.

Poland already has rocketry traditions. At the Institute of Aviation, from which, in the 60s and 70s, “Meteor” rocket emerged. “Amber” is close to the historical performance of the Meteor 2 rocket, but thanks to modern technologies is almost half the takeoff weight.

The creators say the rocket has a high potential for commercialization of the solutions they have developed. “First of all, it should be noted that the main objective of the project is to develop advanced technologies in Poland for suborbital rockets and vehicles for use in major national projects, international initiatives, and commercial activities,” says Eng. Michał Pakosz, the project manager.

The rocket is therefore a technology demonstrator.The majority of the solutions used, meanwhile, are already in use in the national and international projects currently executed by the Institute of Aviation. In addition, work is underway on the implementation of other solutions and the experience gained in the use of space and aviation projects. The rocket also allows for atmospheric research, testing rocket components, and carrying out research in microgravitational conditions. During the mission, the ceiling of 100 km (the border of outer space), is obtained up to 2.5 minutes in a state that reflects a thousandfold reduction of gravity. Under certain conditions, the ILR-33 platform thus constitutes an alternative for solutions such as a drop tower, parabolic flights, and for expensive research aboard the International Space Station.The engineers explain that during such flights it is possible to perform experiments in the field of materials engineering, fluid dynamics, combustion, physics and biology.

Meanwhile, the technology for the concentration of hydrogen peroxide has already been commercialized, and for the distribution of the rocket oxidizer the Polish company Jakusz SpaceTech is responsible. This success may also allow the inclusion of Polish entities in the larger international projects – both in terms of suborbital rockets and rockets that can place satellites in low Earth orbit.

The project ILR-33 rocket was completely financed by the statute of the Institute of Aviation. Its organizers emphasize the way that most of the team carrying out the project began their adventure with rocketry technologies in the Students’ Astronautical Circle at Warsaw University of Technology. The former supervisor of the circle and the current maintainer of the “Bursztyn” project is Prof. Dr. Eng. Piotr Wolański.

“These circumstances show how important it is to finance scientific projects at the level of the university,” say the experts.

Within a few years, the Institute of Aviation established team of nearly 30 people who deal exclusively with rocketry technologies. At the same time, more than half of the team are under 30 years of age, 8 of which have experience of working abroad and 3 in the technological headquarters of the European Space Agency in the Netherlands.

In addition to technical and financial challenges, the rocket creators were confronted with yet another obstacle. This is the legal regulations that do not allow the full capabilities of the rocket ILR-33 “Bursztyn” to be used in Poland. Hence, the maximum ceiling limit allowed on inland flight spaces is 15 km. In addition, protection during take-off and at ​​potential landing sites is necessary, which significantly raises the cost of the project. However, the team are already in talks with foreign partners on ensuring adequate conditions for carrying out takeoffs. According to the Institute experts, a Polish entity would be the operator of future commercial flights conducted based on technologies developed in the project. Meanwhile, more than 300 Polish companies and institutes the worked on the construction of the rocket, dealing with matters including providing various kinds of components and materials.

Source: PAP “Cooperation between science and business: Polish scientific discoveries in 2017”.

Text: Institute of Aviation