Evaluation of a torch ignition system for propulsion

Robert Joseph Ellis, University of Texas at El Paso


In recent years NASA has had a renewed interest in oxygen and methane as propellants for propulsion. The drive for this combination comes from several factors including ease of land-based storage, handling safety, in situ resource utilization, and a relatively clean burning process when compared with the widely used hypergolic propellants. This project is part of a larger goal of the Center for Space Exploration Technology Research (cSETR) to better understand all aspects of using LOX/CH4 propellants to create future hardware that is specially optimized for these propellants. This paper discusses the literature background and reasons that led to the design of a swirl torch igniter that uses a spark ignition system meant to be used as a main engine ignition source. The main goal is to create a flammability map for all phases of propellant inlet conditions to determine what temperature, pressure, and flow rate combinations will lead to reliable and repeatable ignition. This comes from the contemplation that the torch igniter will be fed from the main engine's tank boil off to eliminate the need for extra tanks and to reduce the overall weight of the propulsion system. The current data encompasses flammability maps for three out of six combinations as well as the discussion of design changes that lead to successful ignition of liquid propellants. Possible design changes as well as the goal of future tests are also discussed.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering|Mechanical engineering

Recommended Citation

Ellis, Robert Joseph, "Evaluation of a torch ignition system for propulsion" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1564671.