How the United States built an ultra-cheap rocket with an engine from a training model

(ORDO NEWS) — In 2017, US Navy engineers at the Air Force Warfare Center Weapons Division developed and tested a prototype Rapjet missile.

Not only did they meet the deadline of six months, but they also launched a new rocket using contraptions so cheap that their purchase was paid for with a regular credit card.

One of the most important technologies in rocket science today is the ramjet. The first model, developed 90 years ago, used the trajectory of a rocket to force air into the engine. Oxygen enters the combustion chamber, where it mixes with fuel and provides thrust to keep the rocket flying.

Theoretically, this is an even simpler technology than the traditional use of a compressor to force air into the engine, and missiles equipped with it can reach speeds of up to Mach 6 (7160 km / h).

In addition to increasing speed, rockets can travel three times longer distances on the same amount of fuel. The result is a missile that travels much further than other models and gives enemy air defenses less time to react.

The obvious disadvantage of such a system is the need for a direct air supply to operate, so that aircraft and missiles cannot use it to take off from a complete stop.

So you have to resort to launch vehicles that could accelerate the object to speeds at which air enters in an amount sufficient for the engine to work properly.

But where to get such a rocket? Matt Walker, head of Airbreathing Propulsion at NAWCWD, told Naval Aviation News that his team was on the cusp. Instead of developing the booster themselves at great expense, they used a model rocket engine costing as little as $900.

They could even buy parts with a credit card, avoiding the time-consuming process of military financial bureaucracy. The ability to simply order and ship it instead of running it at the rocket engine factory made the process even faster, and the low cost meant they could afford to test frequently.

As a result, by the third launch, the working prototype of the rocket showed itself in all its glory. Currently, the team continues to work on improving the rocket to make it even more practical and cheaper.

Instead of making the booster a drop-off after launch, the engineers want to combine it with the main rocket into a single system with a common combustion chamber. Walker believes that in 3-4 years a working model will be ready, which will go into mass production.

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