Scientists in China have discovered advancement in cryogenic engine tech which can be used for extending orbital periods of rockets, to around 30 days from just hours before. This should provide ample support for China’s plans for deep space research and exploration plans in the future.
Cryogenic engines are designed specifically with the intention of working at low-temperature conditions.
They utilize non-polluting and non-toxic propellants like liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. These are often better at cost-efficiency when compared to others. Long March carrier rockets, used by China utilize this engine. Other foreign and domestic launch vehicles utilize it too. However, these rockets are capable of orbiting only for minutes or hours at best. The aerospace industry has long been searching for a process, aimed at extending the orbital period.
CALVT scientists in China developed 2 insulating materials, which ensure rockets can stay in flight mode for longer periods by reducing propellant loss via evaporation.
As per Zhang Shaohua, who works on this research team, cryogenic rockets face severe thermal environments when it goes into orbital flight, causing a lot of evaporation of the propellant, reducing orbit time and accelerating propellant loss.
Zhang stated that it was similar to a car leaking oil, which would cause its range to become shortened.
Additionally, when rockets are in flight mode, their engines expel exhaust gases, which keep the pressure balanced in its propellant tanks.
But due to the microgravity conditions prevailing in space, liquid and gas cryogenic propellants are mixed, which causes a huge liquid propellant discharge during the engine exhaust.
Polyurethane foam is an element in these new materials, whose chemical composition allows it to raise insulation capacities by over 50% compared to traditional foam components. The other newly-developed material uses variable density insulation (multilayered), which has an improved thermal capacity, which is around 18% higher, compared to traditional elements.
The new test results displayed that using these advanced materials could cut down cryogenic propellant daily evaporation rates to a mere 0.5% from around 2.5%, as per Zhang.
This tech breakthrough could enable cryogenic propellant storage in orbit for the long-term, proving China’s readiness for deep space research and exploration along with space transportation across long distances, stated Zhang.