Lunar Lion Commences Rocket Engine Testing


Cryogenic liquid bipropellant engines from NASA Johnson Space Center could be used for Lunar Lion maneuvers on the Moon.

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.; January 62014 – The Penn State Lunar Lion Team has completed its first test of cryogenic liquid bipropellant rocket engines at the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory’s (ARL) high-energy test facility.

Known as “pencil thrusters” due to their being approximately the size of a pencil, the performance of the rocket engines is being characterized in an agreement with NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). Data collected will be sent to NASA JSC, and will be a determining factor in the choice of rocket engine to be used for Penn State’s lunar lander.

“Our goal is to test these engines to their limits, and show that they can be used in a variety of mission scenarios,” said Michael Paul, Lunar Lion team leader and director of Space Systems Initiatives for ARL. “These are important tests, both for NASA and for the Lunar Lion. It’s great to see young students working alongside seasoned faculty members and researchers. And to think that they are building the first privately-funded spacecraft to land on the Moon – amazing!”

Liquid oxygen and ethanol are the propellants being used for these tests. The propellant delivery and sensor test stand was designed, built, and integrated into a fully functional system almost entirely by Penn State students.

Lunar Lion students have also designed and built a next-generation pencil thruster. Working with NASA engineers as well as Penn State faculty and staff members, student team members have changed the design of the engines received from NASA in hopes of providing improved performance. Tests of those engines are upcoming.

Penn State, through the Lunar Lion Team, is the only university entered in the 18-team international competition, the Google Lunar XPRIZE, to land a privately-funded spacecraft on the Moon by the end of 2015. The Lunar Lion team is currently comprised of more than 80 undergraduate and graduate students who have the opportunity to have hands-on experience in the safe design, construction and operation of a spacecraft.

Video of the rocket engine test can be seen below

Lunar Lion Tweets

The skies are right for the first university to land a spacecraft on the moon! @accuweather
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Student Team Lead, Patrick, and Deputy Propulsion Lead, Stephen, discuss the new H2O2 engine mounting brackets!
.@dsaich42 welcome to the team! We can't do this without your support! #ToTheMoon!
For our fans in the US, check tomorrow for the @DiscoveryCanada segment! Very excited! #WeAre
To our Canadians friends, we'll be on @DiscoveryCanada tonight at 7! Check us out!
President Barron cuts the red ribbon at #MissionHQ! @ Mission HQ
President Barron cuts the red ribbon and inaugurates #missionhq! #lunarlion #pennstate #weare #moon #space #science #tech #engineering #math #psu #google #mission #collaborate #create #design #cad
List of exciting events: 1) Homecoming @PSUHOMECOMING 2) @LunarLionPSU Puma Flies 3) @esa Rosetta Lands on Comet #HereWeGo
Meg Kaminski, member of both @LunarLionPSU and the @PennStateWSOC, shoots for the moon and the goal!…
Don't know what you're doing tonight? Come out to the State Theater to meet the team and watch Apollo 13! It's FREE!
In State College this Friday? Meet @LunarLionPSU students @TheStateTheatre 5-7 p.m. and stay for a FREE screening of Apollo 13 at 7:30!
What a turnout for our first general meeting! Excited for the skills our new students will bring! #LunarLion
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#MissionHQ is officially operational! With your support, we will put @penn_state on the moon! #ForTheGlory
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This year, @LunarLionPSU is making @PSUHOMECOMING a stellar experience! WHO'S READY?? #FTG14
NASA Will Reformat Mars Rover's Flash Memory From 125 Million Miles Away
"@kosame06: Guy Bluford flew into space today in 1983. Penn Stater. You're welcome." Thanks for showing the way, Guy!
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