Propulsion and Energetics

Propulsion and Energetics

We are a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and engineers (chemical, aerospace, and mechanical) conducting R&D for innovative propulsion and energetics technologies. The goal of the P&E area is to develop and demonstrate critical system components to enhance mission performance and safety of our weapon systems. We are focused on developing innovative interdisciplinary engineering solutions to complex system problems. Our customers include funded SBIR and non-SBIR programs through the Navy, AF, Army, DARPA, OSD, NASA and SERDP.

Propulsion Test Engines

High Performance Liquid Rocket Engine for Storable Propellants
Utilizing proprietary propellant formulations, testing of this liquid rocket engine has been conducted in both monopropellant and bi-propellant configurations. Use of this PSI-developed high performance, green, and storable liquid propellant will allow low-cost operation of high performance propulsion systems for high mass fraction launch vehicles and upper stages. Reducing logistical operational cost, in comparison to current state-of-the-art carcinogenic propellants, is a primary advantage of developing green propellants.
Solid Propellant Gas Generator for DACS
PSI has successfully demonstrated an electrically assisted Self-Extinguishing High Impulse Controllable Solid (SEHICS) propellant, which is highly controllable due to rapid flame extinguishment upon the removal of electrical energy. The high performance solid propellant is applicable to Divert and Attitude Control Systems (DACS), and the SEHICS Test Stand is being used to provide a full-scale demonstration of an ground-based DACS system.
Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine (RDRE)
Building upon previously demonstrated rotating detonation engines, PSI is developing novel modifications to conventional RDRE designs that will address thrust performance issues that plague current systems. A full-scale engine is currently under construction to experimentally demonstrate performance that matches or exceeds current state-of-the-art liquid rocket engines.
500 lb. Solid Rocket Motor (SRM) Test Stand
The largest of PSI’s propulsion test stands, the SRM Test Stand is currently being used to investigate the plume behavior of conventional SRM propellants with the goal of verifying theoretical models.
‘Green’ Liquid Monopropellant Engine
AF-M315E shows promise as a ‘green’ hydrazine replacement that is high performance and poses a significantly reduced health hazard. However, reliable ignition is currently a challenge in green monopropellant propulsion systems. PSI is developing a novel electrolytic ignition system for AF-M315E that serves as a system-level solution to replace catalyst beds as the propellant ignition source. This ignition system is being demonstrated with a dedicated 5 lbf monopropellant thruster.

Structural Energetic Materials

Insensitive Munitions: Casings - A passive case design that controllably fractures open, removing the pressure vessel confinement, before or upon propellant ignition during Slow Cookoff (SCO), bullet impact (BI), and fragment impact (FI).

Combustible Cartridge Cases - A high performance, insensitive munition compliant, structural combustible cartridge case for ammunitions that would significantly augment ballistic performance. This new formulation will increase the ballistic energy, impetus, and muzzle velocity, while simultaneously eliminating combustion residue and providing insensitivity munition compliancy.

Cartidge Cases

Additive Manufacturing of Propellant Formulations

PSI is investigating novel polymer binder systems that combine high energy density, on-demand curing, and compatibility with various oxidizers while retaining critical material properties of conventional energetic materials. PSI’s process is applicable to both additive and conventional manufacturing processes, and has been demonstrated at 100s of grams scale.

Process Engineering and Scale-up

AF-M315E - AF-M315E is considered to be a ‘green’ hydrazine replacement because it is safer, environmentally benign and has higher energy density. Development and scaling of a micro-reactor based process to make AF-M315E components and intermediates is underway. The PSI design integrates microreactors and microseparators to produce high purity propellants in a drop-in fashion.

Fine Ammonium Perchlorate (AP) - PSI is developing technologies to produce fine AP using tailored grinding and crystallization operations at the kg/day scale.

Energetic Formulations

Solid Rocket Propellant Formulations - PSI is developing solid propellants that vary burn rates and coatings to stabilize additives for formulation development. Through this work, PSI has developed multiple formulations that are being tested at PSI’s Propulsion and Energetic facility in NH.

Liquid Rocket Propellant Formulations - PSI is researching multiple novel blends of insensitive munition compliant, high performance, green storable liquid propellants. These propellants are tested in our monopropellant and bipropellant rocket engine test stands.
Liquid Rocket