By: Kirstin Wolfe


Mercury Propulsion is a preliminary design team whose goal is to design, build, instrument, and test a 200-pound-thrust liquid rocket engine that burns liquid oxygen and ethanol.

The engine is designed to optionally incorporate an experimental ejector thrust augmentation system that mixes ambient air with the engine exhaust plume; this mixing will allow more thrust generation by utilizing heat that would otherwise be thrown away.

Team members include: William Carpenter (design team lead), Tobias Fauser, Pedro Peña, Seerat Sangha, Shawn Thompson, and Nicholas Wright.

The project’s inception stemmed from design team lead William Carpenter who came to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) with the goal of building a liquid rocket engine before graduation.

Carpenter proposed the project last spring, received approval, began building a team, and a preliminary senior design team was born.

Component design of the engine is nearly complete and the team looks forward to ordering parts so they can assemble and test the engine they designed.

Final integration and testing of the complete system will finish the team’s project in the upcoming detail design semester.

A long test program will need to be completed before firing of the engine. Carpenter elaborated, “Each individual subsystem will need to be tested under conditions similar to those it will experience during a test firing to ensure that it will operate as designed when it’s finally time to light the engine.”

Challenges the team has faced this semester include the workload of team members outside the class period for preliminary design.

“Finding a balance between this project and our other required work has been a bit stressful for myself and, at one time or another, the other members of the team,” Carpenter commented.

On the part of the project that excites him most, Carpenter admitted, “Personally, I’m a rocket engine geek. The most exciting part for me is getting to work hands-on with a liquid rocket engine all the way from initial concept to hot-fire testing.”

Mercury Propulsion is ready to move into the detail design semester and begin building the rocket engine team members have worked so tirelessly to design.


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