Three intrigues for two startups or how to properly blow up your rocket engine
Already two weeks have passed from the explosion of the Atar rocket engine on the tests of the Russian space startup Lin Industrial. In the first days after the incident on the page "Lin Industrial" appeared a request to stop spreading gossip and guesswork and wait for the official press release. We didn’t wait for him, and some interesting facts were revealed in the discussions following the incident.
The task of creating your own launch vehicle is very difficult, and I have great respect for people who are trying to solve it. But respect does not exclude bewilderment about strange actions and indications of seemingly obvious mistakes (and let me correct it if this is not so).
Brief description of the incident
For those who are not in the know. On December 11, the first fire tests of the Atar rocket engine were carried out with a load of 100 kgf. But, after working for about four seconds, the engine exploded.The first official information was very vague.
The unknown was more than compensated by the journalists. According to Life.ru, a fragment of an exploded engine tore off part of the worker’s hand in a nearby trailer.
In the article "Komsomolskaya Pravda" it was already mentioned about the fracture of the arm, and in the evening on December 13, on the official page of "Lin Industrial" on VKontakte, information appeared about the "damage" of the hand.
A test video was also published, but the explosion and the subsequent stand fire (at KDPV) were cut out from there.
The media switched to new events, and without official updates, two weeks later we still do not know the extent of the injury and the current state of the injured worker, the presence and status of the criminal case (there was information that it was opened), the status of the accident investigation and the subsequent schedule works of "Lin Industrial".
In the plot of the TV channel "Russia 24" was shown the scene.
If you find this place on the map, then there are questions to the official message. How "there won't be anyone for kilometers around" if the place is located in the city, near the road, and there are gas stations and a bus stop nearby?
It looks many times more strange, if we take into account several factors. First, at Lin Industrial, the flying test bench for testing the control system was launched at least thirteen times somewhere “in the fields”, where the designers had the opportunity to reach with a load that is not much smaller in size and dimensions.
Secondly, from the open information presented on the official site of Lin Industrial, it is clear that the engine was made for a long time and systematically. Testing of the injectors for the engine began in December 2015. The engine itself was manufactured in March 2016. Hydraulic tests took place in May. In September, the assembly of the firing stand began, which was completed by October, and conducted another hydraulic test at the same time. In parallel, in September, two versions of an improvised catalyst were tested to decompose hydrogen peroxide, one of the components of the engine fuel. After work of such quality and duration of testing in those conditions in which they happened, look hastily.
Thirdly, any person, at least a little interested in astronautics and rocket technology, knows that rocket engines sometimes explode.New engines on test explode no longer sometimes, but as a rule. Even in "Taming the Fire" the first historical launch of GIRD-09 is made by people from the shelter. Against this background, it is strange to see an open trailer without any splinter protection - earthen shaft, concrete blocks, iron sheets - there are a lot of acceptable options. Designers "Lin Industrial" were so optimistic that they believed that the engine will work the first time? Given that, in my own experience, we came across situations when tests gave results that contradicted expectations? Strange.
Not the first
Many media outlets described the incident as the first private liquid-propellant rocket engine in Russia. But it is not. It turns out that on November 14, the NSTR RT company tested its rocket engine with a weight of 85 kgf, and in the Space Environment program of Roscosmos TV one can find a video of the engine (from 3:57)
At the same time, an interview with Nikolay Dzis-Voynarovsky was shown with the signature “representative of the company Lin Industrial”. From the discussion on the forum of the magazine "Astronautics News" it turns out that the NSTR RT company detached from Lin Industrial, and we now have at least two rocket startups.In addition to this video, information about the NSTR RT engine is missing, and Nikolai Dzis-Voinarovsky, the general designer, is not eager to disclose it.
The company has a website, but it is still empty. The lack of information led to the fact that some hotheads doubt the existence of the NSTR RT company and the engine and even reach insults.
Looking at these "secrets of the royal court" there is a bad suspicion. Was the lack of reasonableness of the Lin Industrial tests caused by haste due to the loss of priority in the tests of the “first private LPRE in Russia”? That would be very sad. The development of launch vehicles is a very difficult matter, it is not worth complicating it with even more irrational actions due to quite understandable ambitions.
You are waiting for openness and good PR skills from private space companies in Russia of the 21st century. And as long as everything went well, Lin Industrial released excellent reports on what was going on. But an accident happened, and the actions of space startups began to resemble the worst examples of public relations not even Roskosmos, but Soviet cosmonautics didn’t have any information, the explosion and fire test video was cut out, comments in discussions were deleted.Is it really a mentality or something that is so ingrained in all of us? Why is the Danish rocket startup Copenhagen Suborbitals assembling a normally protected booth and conducting tests in public, inviting viewers, while our tests are conducted at night in the industrial zone?
Collapsible stand Copenhagen Suborbitals can be transported
Concrete blocks reliably protect from splinters
The audience will have something to remember and how to inspire their children and grandchildren
Why on YouTube you can find the video of the explosions of the engines of some unknown Japanese startup, and we are tempted to show only a good picture?
NASA does not hesitate to insert chronicles of its engine explosions into its films. Rocket technology is a complicated thing, and the tests of the engine, which finally did not explode, look like a much more visual victory.
The designers of "Lin Industrial" were very unlucky - the situation "a fragment broke through the fence, the wall of the trailer and hit the person" is very unlikely. But at the same time, they were very lucky - a fragment that fell into the hand could fall into the neck, and then everything could be much more sad. In the absence of information, it remains only to hope that Lin Industrial will overcome the consequences of the accident and draw conclusions from its mistakes.Because one really wants to sit down at a computer one day and, along with hundreds of other viewers, open the online broadcast of the Lin Industrial engine tests in fifty tons.
UPD: In the blog of the head of Lin Industrial Alexander Ilyin, a new post appeared in which additional information was published about the reasons for choosing the industrial zone as a test site, a preliminary analysis was made of the possible causes of the accident and the reasons for silence were explained:
Unfortunately, any publications (even in a good way), any questions, any discussions - can greatly worsen the situation for us personally (not only for the company).