MIT Rocket Team: Pyralis Aerospike Engine

  • Sep 28, 2014 9:08pm GMT

Little has changed in the past 50 years of rocketry. The basic concept of the bell-shaped nozzle has remained mostly the same. However, MIT’s Rocket Team aims to change that.

The team is working on a project they call the Pyralis rocket engine. One can notice that it is radically different from traditional engines, belonging to the “aerospike” class. The design is difficult to implement, but if they can get it working, will result in a large boost in engine efficiency across differing altitudes. This is due to the fact that the design of the engine compensates for the surrounding air pressure.

The team started the Pyralis project in early 2014, but encountered… difficulties in their first test. The test engine suffered a “hot start,” meaning that the fuel ignited all at once rather than a slower, continuous burn. This caused an internal failure of the engine and ultimately an explosion. The explosion was contained in a blast chamber, however the engine and the test stand was damaged. Fuel lines, rated for 3000PSI, ruptured.

This year, the team is reworking the Pyralis enigne and aims for another test in late October. Changes include a new injector and a new startup procedure to avoid hot starts.

MIT’s rocket team has competed and placed well in many different competitions, including NASA’s Student Launch Initiative. The team built a 12ft carbon fiber rocket called Valhalla, which carried a UAV to an altitude of precisely a mile up. In this competition, the team won 2nd place overall, as well as Rookie of the Year and the Project Review Award.

The team plans to compete in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition in June 2015 with the Pyralis engine. Find the teams website at: