Hello, I’m Ben Brockert, the new technician and fabricator at Masten Space Systems. I started with MSS about three weeks ago. I’m originally from Iowa, where I was involved with the Iowa State Space Society and SEDS-USA. One of my major projects since I started here has been rebuilding the igniter testing cart.
The old cart had no liquid oxygen (LOX) handling capability, so we rebuilt the cart with a LOX tank in an insulated box (the LOX Box). It was built with room for expansion, so that we can easily adapt the cart for RCS engine testing in the future. The fuel side is pressurized with nitrogen and the LOX side is pressurized with helium, so this revision of the cart uses brazed joints on the LOX side to minimize leaks. Helium can get past normal joint sealing methods, the same way a sealed helium balloon will deflate after a few days. The new cart also has better containment of the test article for safety purposes.
Today we finished the last of the plumbing and ran the new igniter for the new engines. Though the new engines are 50% larger, the igniter itself is smaller and lighter than the old igniter. This represents the first hardware testing of the new engines. The LOX vaporizes in the plumbing upstream of the igniter, so the igniter runs on gaseous oxygen (GOX) and isopropyl alcohol (IPA), both at 400PSI. The flame is about six inches long and has a number of Mach diamonds in it. We’ll get photos showing them in the next week.
This is the first run. For scale, the extruded aluminum “X”s that the igniter is mounted on are one inch square.
Here is the second run. Since the igniter body has a significantly smaller thermal mass than the old design, we’ll have to be careful not to overtemp it when running it outside the engine. In a normal engine cycle, it would only need to run half as long, and would be actively cooled. It wouldn’t normally glow.