Progress in the ILR-33 Amber project

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In October 2017, the Warsaw based Institute of Aviation’s ILR-33 Amber rocket was in-flight validated for the first time, thus becoming the world’s first rocket utilizing in flight H2O2 of concentration exceeding 98%.

After the confirmation of nominal operations of critical subsystems, the Institute of Aviation proceeded to the next stage of the rocket development. Recent activities were aimed at increasing the functionality of the rocket, repeatability verification and demonstration of new technologies during a flight to higher altitudes. The Institute of Aviation, together with the Polish Space Agency (POLSA), made efforts to increase the admissible flight altitude over Polish military test ranges. Until now, the maximum ceiling was limited to 15 kilometers. Thanks to the support of the Armed Forces General Command, Military Air Traffic Service Office of the Polish Armed Forces, Polish Air Navigation Services Agency and the Air Force Training Centre in Ustka, it was possible to lift the ceiling limitation over the military range in Ustka (EA 220 and AMBER01 zones). An UNLIMITED value has been assigned. Thus, rocket flights for previously unavailable altitudes are now possible. Consecutive actions, that are continued by Institute of Aviation and the Polish Space Agency, are aimed at expanding the horizontal boundaries of the airspace and landing zone, which are critical in terms of flight safety. More on this subject can be read on the website of POLSA.

In September 2018, the ILR-33 Amber rocket was to have its second in-flight test at Ustka Training Centre. The team from the Institute prepared two versions of the rocket – the standard one and a new one, with an attitude control system. Due to bad weather conditions, which were manifested by strong jet streams at the ceiling below 12 km, of speeds exceeded 200 km/h, the launch attempt has been cancelled. Flight in such conditions was unacceptable in terms of security reasons. Despite the readiness of the rockets and a four-day-long launch window, it has been decided to cancel the test campaign. The team, however, managed to test the infrastructure developed for the last year, that supports launch preparations. It was also adapted to conditions of the military range in Ustka. Moreover, the procedures regarding systems integration, logistics and the decision algorithm that allows for launch were also verified. Progress in this domain would not be possible without the support of Armed Forces General Command and representatives of Air Force Training Centre in Ustka. The logistic, organizational and formal support of mentioned units was crucial in terms of preparations for carrying out such activities.

Figure: The ILR-33 Amber rocket integrated with the launch pad, ready for lift-off.
Photo credit: Błażej Marciniak/Institute of Aviation.

Figure: The team from the Institute of Aviation together with representatives of the Polish Space Agency at military range in Ustka. Photo credit: Błażej Marciniak/Institute of Aviation.

Furthermore, the preparations for the test campaign constituted as one of the most advanced in the history of civil rockets programs in Poland. The launch infrastructure included i.a. over 150 m2 of dedicated indoor integration space, an improved mobile launch pad, mobile propellant facility, mission control room, rocket tracking systems and an electronic, fully-autonomous launch control system. In addition to the on-ground facilities, the actions were supported by naval units with a customized ship for rocket recovery, an aircraft for observation purposes and meteorological balloons. Balloon probing was also carried out by the team of the Institute of Aviation and allowed to obtain real-time data of the wind profile up to the required altitude. This enabled to implement wind data into software that simulates rocket performance. The released balloon reached the ceiling of 36.7 km providing necessary data.

Although the launch was not possible, the advances in rocket propulsion in recent months have been recognized by the European Space Agency. The Institute of Aviation is the national leader in chemical rocket and satellite propulsion. This is confirmed by the participation in 9 out of 11 ESA projects in this area that have been carried out in Poland.

During 1-5 October 2018, the ILR-33 Amber rocket was exhibited at the 69th International Astronautical Congress in Bremen at the stand of the Polish space sector, that was organized by the Polish Space Agency, Industrial Development Agency JSC and the Polish Space Industry Association. The rocket was suspended over the Polish exhibition stand and was of great interest to the visitors.

Figure: The Institute of Aviation’s ILR-33 Amber rocket being suspended over the stand of the Polish Spacce Sector during the 69th International Astronautical Congress in Bremen.
Photo credit: Institute of Aviation.

The ILR-33 Amber rocket could be also seen on the 12th of October, during the 9th Night at the Institute of Aviation in Warsaw, and on the anniversary of the first launch of the rocket during the conference in the Presidential Palace titled Technologies of the Future. Space Industry.

Figure: Presentation of the ILR-33 Amber rocket (left) to the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda.

Publication sponsored by the Institute of Aviation.

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