The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Advertisement
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Advertisement
Texas A&M infielder Kaeden Kent (3) celebrates a home run during Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
Winning 9 to 5: A&M beats Tennessee in Game 1 of College World Series finals
Luke White, Sports Editor • June 23, 2024

While Texas A&M baseball had never appeared in the College World Series finals before Saturday, the Aggies played as if they were seasoned...

Texas A&M fans react after The Aggies win the NCAA Bryan-College Station Super Regional at Olsen Field on Sunday, June 9, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
The mad dash to Omaha
June 21, 2024
Advertisement
Enjoying the Destination
Enjoying the Destination
Cara Hudson, Maroon Life Writer • June 17, 2024

For the history buffs, there’s a story to why Bryan and College Station are so closely intertwined. In 1871 when the Texas Legislature approved...

Advertisement
Chris Hemsworth as Dementus in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Review: ‘Furiosa’ is a must-see
Justin Chen June 4, 2024

My jaw dropped open in 2016. Rarely in life does that happen, but the viewing experience of “Mad Max: Fury Road" was something to behold....

A&M to become third university with rocket testing capabilities

Turbomachinery+Laboratory+at+Texas+A%26M
Photo by Via Turbomachinery Laboratory at Texas A&M/Facebook
Turbomachinery Laboratory at Texas A&M

Texas A&M will become one of three universities in the United States with rocket testing capabilities once the construction of the Propulsion and Energetics Research Laboratory, or PERL, is complete.

The lab will test rockets and other projects in extreme conditions, beginning with the Macaw Thruster, an engine commissioned by the Department of Defense and other private contractors for satellite use.  

The director of the facility, Chris Thomas, Ph.D., said the laboratory’s purpose is to provide a safe operations space for testing potentially dangerous areas of interest — such as rockets.

“What it really is, is a facility to come and do extreme condition testing,” Thomas said. “It’s [for extreme conditions], by which I mean high pressure, high temperature [and] high flow rate. Things that are dangerous to do are perfect to do in there in a safe manner.”

While the building itself does not host any groundbreaking technology, it is designed to streamline testing and provide experimenters the ability to run more dangerous experiments than a normal lab could manage, Thomas said.

“We can drop it in this building that has seven blast-proof cells, and the idea is you can do all these things and if something goes wrong … that everyone is perfectly safe,” Thomas said.

Thomas said one of the laboratory’s first projects is the Macaw Thruster. The Macaw Thruster, along with its companion monopropellant ASCENT, is designed for the U.S. Air Force to use to maneuver satellites in orbit. 

“We use [ASCENT and the Macaw Thruster] to move satellites out of harm’s way, of either something like a micro-meteoroid or an actual military threat,” Thomas said. “Some of the future of warfare will be fought in space, taking down people’s satellites.”
The Director of Advanced Propellants Michael Martin, Ph.D., said the new chemical propellant that will power the Macaw Thruster, ASCENT, is being developed by researchers at the nearby Turbomachinery Lab and the company Benchmark Space Systems to replace the predominant propellant — hydrazine — due to both the efficiency of ASCENT and improved safety. 

“That’s one of the really nice things about [ASCENT,] is that most rocket fuels, if you have any kind of leak, it kills you pretty quickly, within a minute,” Martin said.

Martin said ASCENT was designed to replace hydrazine because hydrazine’s hazardous nature requires extensive safety precautions, halting research, Martin said. 
“Hydrazine will burn your lungs and kill you rather quickly, whereas [ASCENT] … you can have it out on the table, open …,” Martin said. “As long as you don’t drink it, you’ll be fine.” 

Martin also said the new thruster and propellant could be used in a potential global conflict, citing its improved efficiency of thrust and safety in comparison to the currently used hydrazine. 

“We know in the first days of World War III that the [communication] satellites might get destroyed by laser or by whatever,” Martin said. “And so, you could have replacement satellites already built and in a warehouse … you can’t do that with hydrazine.” 

Martin said while this new technology is promising, it will likely take years to be implemented due to the difficulty of replacing a propellant that the U.S. government has been using for decades. 

“It hasn’t flown for 40 years like hydrazine has,” Martin said. “That’s the problem with trying to introduce new things.” 

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *