Discovery Magazine

Hybrid Rocket Research and Competition

Many new space exploration companies are investigating hybrid rocket propulsion technologies as the solution to enable a new class of efficient and powerful rocket launch vehicles. These hybrid systems take advantage of the high efficiency, or specific impulse, associated with liquid propulsion systems such as those utilizing cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen with the incredibly high thrust-to-weight ratio that can be achieved with solid propellant rockets. The combination of these two beneficial attributes, along with new manufacturing advances, has brought hybrid rockets into play as a booster or second stage vehicle to help enable space exploration or atmospheric sounding missions at improved cost and reliability. Professors at Florida Institute of Technology are investigating new methods for hybrid rocket propulsion throttling control, motor clustering for flight control, and improved testing techniques to make very accurate measurements of the thrust-time history produced by innovative hybrid propulsion systems.

In addition to research on hybrid propulsion systems, the Florida Tech Student Rocket Research Society (SRS) Hybrid Flight Teams compete in an annual competition with other Florida universities in precision and high altitude contests. One of the Florida Tech teams has been a consistent winner of both events. What sets Florida Tech’s teams apart is the successful implementation of checklist procedures and familiarity with ground support hardware, which have also been developed at the university. The overall goal of the hybrid rocket program is to provide undergraduates with the experience of designing, building and flying a hybrid rocket, as well as the experience of team and project management, which will prepare them for future projects at Florida Tech and in the professional setting.