March 15, 2006

Vinci: full steam ahead

Vega, Ariane 5 and other launchers could be attracted by the performance of Vinci, Europe’s new cryogenic rocket engine. Recent tests have confirmed its high level of reliability.
23 March 2006

Conclusive test results

The new-design Vinci engine uses an expander cycle that avoids the use of gas generators to drive its turbopumps, thereby reducing the risk of explosions and enhancing reliability while allying power with safety. Vinci’s powerful hydrogen turbopump, the size of a small backpack, puts out an impressive 2.5 MW.

Vinci had already been fired for 1 minute at half thrust during a recent test campaign, since when it has gone through its paces in a new series of 6 tests. On 13 January, it successfully accomplished its 1st long-duration firing, operating for 350 seconds. A 6th and final test was run on 22 February to characterize the technical and mechanical behaviour of the fixed part of the nozzle.

Rocket engine combustion process

Generation of energy to feed the turbines:
gas generator or starter

Generation of energy to create engine thrust:
the combustion chamber, where the fuel burns with the oxidizer to generate gases
the nozzle turns the energy inside the gases (temperature and pressure) into a high-speed flow

A versatile engine

These 2 latest successes, during which Vinci was fired at full thrust for the 1st time, confirmed the high hopes riding on this new-generation rocket engine. A 2nd phase of tests is scheduled late this year, after which a 3-year demonstration phase will confirm the engine’s viability.

Vinci delivers about 18 t of thrust and can be restarted several times in succession. It could be used as the 3rd cryogenic stage of a launcher like Ariane 5 to boost launch capacity. It could also be adapted to optimize lighter launchers like Vega or next-generation European launchers.

Vinci was developed by Snecma Moteurs under ESA oversight, assisted by the project team at CNES’s Launch Vehicles Directorate (DLA).

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