A New Kind of Rocket that’s Lightweight and Easier to Construct: a Rotating Detonating Engine. Unfortunately, it’s Also Completely Unpredictable

In the current era of space exploration, the name of the game is “cost-effective.” By reducing the costs associated with individual launches, space agencies and private aerospace companies (aka. NewSpace) are ensuring that access to space is greater. And when it comes to the cost of launches, the single-greatest expense is that of propellant. To put it simply, breaking free to Earth’s gravity takes a lot of rocket fuel!

To address this, researchers at the University of Washington recently developed a mathematical model that describes the workings of a new launch mechanism: the rotating detonation engine (RDE). This lightweight design offers greater fuel-efficiency and is less complicated to construct. However, it comes with the rather large trade-off of being too unpredictable to be put into service right now.

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The Spaceport America Cup Joins Crowdsourcing Platform HeroX to Propel Student Innovation!

Beginning in 2017, the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) and Spaceport America came together to launch a competition known as the Spaceport America Cup. This annual event sees academics and industry experts from around the world gather at the world’s first purpose-built spaceport to collaborate, compete, and inspire young people to become the next generation of aerospace engineers.

At the heart of the competition is the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC), where commercial and student teams build and launch-test rockets of their own design. This year’s competition is expected to be very exciting and will see 1,500 international students from over 70 institutions converge on Southern New Mexico this summer to ply their talents and compete for the prestigious Spaceport America Cup!

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