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CONTROL AND STABILITY OF UPPER STAGE LAUNCH VEHICLE WITH HYBRID ARC-IGNITION ATTITUDE CONTROL System is a well-researched Engineering Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.


Over the last decade, there has been a spike in demand for safer, non-toxic propellant alternatives in smaller-class spacecraft. Hydrazine is the primary source of rocket propellant today. Unfortunately, it is very toxic and presents substantial health and handling risks to personnel. For this reason, hydrazine has become an increasingly cost-prohibitive option in the emerging trend of economical and low-complexity spacecraft.

Ionic liquids (ILs), such as ammonium dinitramide and hydroxylammonium nitrate, are considered “green” propellant candidates because they have been shown to be safer to handle and store. However, their ignition difficulties and possible combustion instabilities have yet to be overcome before ILs can be considered a viable option.

Hybrid rockets have been identified as a promising solution for the current market because of their safety, reliability, simple design, and ability to use inert fuel constituents. In addition, their multiple restart and throttle capabilities allow for use across a wide range of propulsion applications spanning drones, missiles, satellites, and spacecraft maneuvering systems.

Utah State University (USU) has developed a novel arc-ignition hybrid system as a potential substitute for many hydrazine-based propulsion applications. This system takes advantage of unique electrical break-down properties within 3-D printed thermoplastic fuel grains to produce a reliable ignition method with multiple-restart capabilities. USU has


The demand for space access for small to intermediate-sized spacecraft has grown dramatically in recent years. Technological advancements have allowed for the development of smaller and cheaper high-performance systems.

Examples of such technologies include progress made in chemical, cold gas, and electric propulsion systems and the push for lower toxicity propellants. The evolution of battery performance and photovoltaic technology has contributed to increased onboard power system efficiency.

Advancements in spacecraft guidance and navigation systems have given rise to improved pointing accuracy and orbit achievement [1]. Other areas of notable technological growth include communications, structural design, temperature control, and data collection.

Amid these advancements, upper-stage launch vehicles have not seen the same rapid progress. Most state-of-the-art launch vehicles primarily rely on hydrazine for their propellant, a highly toxic and flammable liquid. The use of hydrazine requires extensive safety and handling procedures to be followed, which, although necessary, results in high mission costs.

The small-spacecraft industry is trending towards low budget commercial and academic space missions with an emphasis on safety and reliability. In this emerging market, hydrazine is quickly becoming a cost-prohibitive option challenged by safer, cleaner, and cheaper propellant alternatives.

A recent study led by the European Space Agency Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) concluded that the cost associated with space access may be significantly reduced by replacing commonly used propellants, such as hydrazine, with “green,” non-toxic propellants [2,3]. In 2012, a clear push towards green propellants was shown by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology program when Ball Aerospace Corporation was awarded $45M to demonstrate a high-performance green propellant alternative to hydrazine [4].

The ESTEC additionally concluded that further cost reduction could be realized through the simplification of the overall system complexity. In parallel with the growing push for green propellant alternatives, hybrid rocket systems have recently gained interest as a potential substitute to conventional solid and bi-propellant launch vehicles, which utilize hydrazine.

The reasons for this include the inherent safety, stability, and competitive performance of hybrid systems. A hybrid rocket combines aspects of both single and bi-propellant systems by incorporating a solid fuel grain and a gas or liquid oxidizer. The system functions by injecting oxidizer from a pressurized tank into the combustion chamber where the fuel grain resides (see Fig. 1.1).

In order to seed combustion, an ignition source must initiate fuel pluralization. Upon doing so, the hydrocarbon-based fuel vapor interacts with the injected oxidizer and begins the combustion process [5]. A hybrid rocket incorporates oxidizer and fuel that, when isolated from one another, are completely inert.

The minimized risks associated with handling, transportation, and fabrication results in sizeable cost savings compared to launch vehicles that use hydrating [6]. Additionally, the thrust and specific impulse (Isp) performance of a well-tuned hybrid rocket have the capability to rival both liquid- and solid-propellant rockets [7]. One of the most unique features of hybrids is their ability to control the flow of oxidizer through the system.

This functionality allows the motor to be restarted and throttled. In summary, hybrid rockets present a safe and economic solution that has the technological capability to be used within drones, missiles, satellites, spacecraft maneuvering, and other space system applications.


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