News Robotic Intestine Puke Rocket Fuel

Nicholas Kang

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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency may start to manufacture solid rocket fuel with puking robot intestines.

MzAzODQxNg.jpeg

This is literally a robotic intestine puking rocket fuel. It’s being developed in Japan, by roboticists from Chuo University and JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

You’ll be relieved to learn that it’s a robotic intestine puking rocket fuel with a purpose: It’s designed to replicate the peristaltic motion of a real intestine in order to gently mix ingredients to make solid rocket fuel. The researchers say their machine is safer than conventional mixers because the fuel doesn’t experience high shear stress inside the undulating rubber tubing and is never in contact with metal, avoiding the risk of fire and explosions.

The idea is to turn the solid rocket fuel manufacturing process into a continuous operation rather than a discrete one, replacing rocket fuel mixing bowls that give you fuel in batches with a system that can just continuously pump out fuel instead. It’ll be more efficient, safer, and easier to scale, helping keep solid fuel rockets competitive for small satellite launches.


The stuff coming out of the machine represents a rubbery mixture of ammonium perchlorate powder (an oxidizer), aluminum powder (a high energy fuel), and an elastomer binder consisting of hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB). Generally, mixing these things together is done in what look like industrial bread dough mixers, which allows each batch to be carefully controlled to make sure the fuel comes out just right. Also, when you’re mixing up something designed to be more or less as explosive as possible, you want to do it very, very gently.


JAXA.jpg

A peristaltic pumping system is able to mix ingredients both safely and effectively. It works just like your intestine does, with rhythmic contractions moving stuff along a tube, except unlike your intestine, the system is closed at both ends and the stuff is added in the middle, along with pressurized air. As the sections of the tube expand and contract, everything inside gets mixed together. An operational system would likely consist of a long mixing loop that would continuously ingest raw rocket fuel ingredients at one end, and then, er, expel them all mixed together at the other.

Thiokol's Solid Fuel Manufacturing Process


Source: IEEE Spectrum, The Verge, Spaceflighfans.cn
 

Linguofreak

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I'm not sure that "puking" is the right word. If it all goes through in the same direction, it's a different bodily function.
 

Pioneer

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Yup. The Japanese are into some really weird things...
 

n72.75

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Now I've seen everything...
 

GLS

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In some future rocket accident review board report: The root cause of the failure of the launch vehicle was a propellant manufacture flaw. The characteristics of the propellant were abnormal due to below-spec concentrations of fiber in the system.:uhh::rofl:
 

RGClark

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Thanks for that. Amateurs and university students mix their own solid propellant for high power rocketry flights. An issue has always been this can be dangerous for large amounts. This safer process may make it easier for amateurs to make larger rockets.

Bob Clark
 
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