The sky is no longer the limit for Busch Vacuum Solutions

The sky is no longer the limit for Busch Vacuum Solutions


Busch Vacuum Solutions collaborated with the European Space Agency, Fluid Gravity Engineering Ltd and the University of Glasgow to deliver a facility simulating the interaction of rocket motor thrust and the surface of Mars and the Moon during rocket landings.

The project involved simulating the firing of rockets inside a vacuum vessel held at various pressure conditions replicating those found on the surface of the moon or Mars. For example, Mars has an atmosphere of approximately 600 Pa CO2 – about 0.6% of the Earth’s – and with a scaled retro-rocket proxy propelling 19g/s of gas towards the simulated surface. A huge volume at 600 Pa. The surface of the Moon is at ultra-high vacuum; 3x10-9Pa – 30 million, billionths of that on Earth – and its surface gravity is only a sixth of that of Earth (Mars is about 3/8ths). Such varied conditions meant that various motor sizes needed to be assessed.

Using a large ‘buffer’ tank (65m3), and a fast-acting pressure-controlled valve between the test chamber and the ballast tank, Busch Vacuum Solutions controlled the system pressure to the exacting tolerances required at 600 Pa for several motor pulses over the 15 second test period. The inter-action was captured with high-speed cameras to allow all the data to be recorded.

Achieving the surface pressure of the moon in a vacuum chamber on Earth whilst firing a simulated rocket inside it was possible after mathematical models showed that maintaining a pressure below 4 Pa for two and a half seconds provided a good enough simulation to understand how the moon dust – the regolith – behaves. Utilising the buffer tank, minimising the interconnecting pipe and selecting the right vacuum pump set were the keys to enabling the Busch solution to achieve such conditions. The finished project delivered a system pressure rise time measured within a tenth of a second to that predicted calculation.

Complex projects such as these require co-ordination, mathematical simulation and technical expertise. To find out how Busch Vacuum Solutions can help you, contact sales@busch.co.uk.