Laser ignition of oxygen-kerosene fuel in rocket technique: from igniters to rocket engines

Design, construction and manufacturing of flying vehicles


Rebrov S. G.1*, Golubev V. A.2**, Golikov A. N.1***

1. ,
2. Keldysh Research Centre, 8, Onezhskaya str., Moscow, 125438, Russia



The article reviews the main results of research aimed at introducing laser ignition for rocket engines using oxygen-kerosene fuel. The purpose of the work was to determine the operational parameters of the laser ignition system and the ranges of the composition and fuel rate of the fuel mixture to ensure reliable ignition in igniters, rocket thrusters and sustainer rocket engines. The method of initiating a spark of optical breakdown in area with favorable ignition characteristics of the mixture was used as a method of ignition. The laser radiation was focused either in the volume of the mixture or near the metallic surface for that.

The tests covered a wide range of changes in the operating parameters of both combustion chambers and ignition systems. Laser ignition was successfully tested on chambers, starting from a small volume of several cm3 for igniters and low-thrust engines to the sustainer chamber of the engines of the first, second stages of the Soyuz launch vehicle with a volume of 65 dm3. The tests were carried out using mixtures of both a reducing composition at a value of oxidizer-to-fuel ratio to 0.1 and an oxidizing composition with a value of oxidizer-to-fuel ratio up to 11. Laser parameters were also ranged for output pulse energy from 1 mJ to 100 mJ and for pulse repetition frequency from 10 Hz to 100 Hz.

The complex of carried out works made it possible to develop the technology of laser ignition of oxygen-kerosene fuel with the determination of the necessary operating parameters of fuel mixtures and the ignition system itself with regard to rocket technology: igniters, thrusters, large combustion chambers for rocket engines with thrust up to 18 tf. Guidelines for introduction of laser ignition for large size rocket engine combustion chambers have been developed on the basis of experience gained. It was also shown the feasibility of laser ignition of large-sized oxygen-kerosene chambers using small-sized lasers mounted directly to the combustion chamber. These results allowed to propose a scheme of laser ignition system to replace the existing pyrotechnic for the first and second stages of the Soyuz launch vehicle, based on the use of micro lasers with fiber radiation delivered to them from a reusable stationary diode pumping station placed on the launch site.


laser ignition, optical breakdown, combustion chamber, rocket engine


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