NASA’s rotating detonation rocket engine posts record test results – New Atlas

Explosions get you much more bang from your fuel buck than combustion – if your engine can withstand them. NASA believes the rotating detonation engine could be the future of deep space travel, and it’s getting strong results in prototype testing.

Combustion engines are tried and true, and however angry they might look and sound in a top-fuel dragster or space rocket booster, the combustion process of oxidizing fuel in air is relatively slow and predictable. Detonation, on the other hand, is as chaotic and destructive as it sounds. It’s how most bombs work; you take an explosive fuel and hit it with a jolt of energy, and the chemical bonds holding each molecule together break apart, releasing wild amounts of energy in a shockwave that expands at supersonic speed.

NASA, along with many other groups, wants to harness these explosions for a couple of key reasons. Firstly, detonation engines have a considerably higher theoretical level of efficiency than combustion engines, perhaps as much as 25%; they should be able to produce more thrust using less fuel and a smaller rocket. In the engineering and economics of space flight, that means cheaper launches, more billable payload, and greater distances.

They’re also relevant to hypersonic flight. Combustion engines can only operate at subsonic airspeeds. To go supersonic or hypersonic, the intake air needs to be rapidly decelerated to a subsonic speed for combustion to take place. This generates heat and drag. Detonation occurs at supersonic speeds, so in addition to greater efficiency, you also reduce heat and drag in hypersonic applications since you don’t need to slow the air down nearly as much.

Rotating detonation engines (RDEs), as opposed to oblique wave detonation engines or pulse detonation engines, use ring-shaped chambers and precisely-timed fuel injection to generate constant thrust. Each explosion sends out a shockwave that produces thrust, but it also travels around the ring to trigger the next explosion.

A number of groups are now reporting successful test firing of rotating detonation engines, from the University of Central Florida, working with the Air Force Research Laboratory, to Australia’s RMIT, working with DefendTex, to Houston company Venus Aerospace, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and others… Jaxa, the Japanese space agency, has even gone so far as to test a small one in space.

The engine was fired for a total of nearly 10 minutes, showing off its ability to withstand the extreme forces of sustained detonation


NASA is keeping its testing on terra firma for the time being, but it’s now announced the successful testing of a small RDE last year, in partnership with Indiana company In Space LLE. The engine was fired “over a dozen times, totaling nearly 10 minutes in duration,” so it’s clearly handled the major challenge for RDE development with aplomb – that being not to let your engine blow itself to bits.

The engine is built using powder bed fusion 3D printing, incorporating NASA’s own GRCop-42 copper alloy, which the agency says is key to its ability to withstand the extreme conditions of sustained detonation without overheating.

At full throttle, says NASA, the RDE …….


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Red Bull set to announce Ford engine partnership deal with US car giant – BBC

Honda-powered Red Bull won both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships in 2022

Red Bull are poised to announce an engine partnership deal with US car giant Ford.

Ford will join forces with the team from 2026, part-funding the engine Red Bull are designing for the new regulations to be introduced that year.

The agreement is expected to be officially unveiled at Red Bull’s 2023 season launch in New York on Friday.

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Ford set to announce F1 return with Red Bull engine deal – The Race

Red Bull and Ford are set to announce they will work together on a Formula 1 engine for 2026.

The widely rumoured collaboration will be announced on Friday, when Red Bull is set to reveal the livery for its 2023 car the RB19 at an event in New York.

Though not confirmed by either party, the news of a tie-up between Ford and the newly created Red Bull Powertrains engine division was mistakenly leaked in Italian media and is understood to be correct.

Ford has been interested in a potential F1 programme for several months, based around the 2026 engine regulations – which feature “100% sustainable fuels”, according to F1, and an increase in the electrical …….