Download Full Text (8.9 MB)


Propulsion Research Center: APECSLab The Propulsion Research Center (JRC) at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) houses state-of-the-art laboratories that includes a propulsion test stand, vacuum chamber facility, electric propulsion laboratory, gaseous cold flow injection testbed, and the high-pressure solid energetics facility. Within the past year, the PRC has welcomed a new laboratory, the Advanced Propulsion, Energy, and Combustion Science laboratory (APECSLab) under the guidance of Professor John Bennewitz. Under Prof. Bennewitz, one of the focuses of the APECSLab is the design and testing of small-scale Rotating Detonation Rocket Engines (RDREs) for in-space applications. Project Problem The thrust stand currently housed in the APECSLab facility was originally designed to test rockets with thrust levels approaching 500 lbf. However, the small-scale RDRE is designed to produce thrust ranging from 1-25 lbf. Consequently, in its current configuration, the test stand flexure stiffness is too high to obtain thrust measurements with low measurement uncertainty for the desired thrust range suitable for small-scale RDRE testing. Approach To solve this issue of over-stiffness, two areas were identified to lessen the stiffness of the test stand. By decreasing the thickness of the flexures and replacing the large-scale load cells with appropriate small-scale versions, the stiffness of the test stand will be adequately reduced and allow for small-scale RDRE testing, as well as provide high-resolution thrust measurements with minimized uncertainty. A Computer Aid Design (CAD) model of the entire thrust stand was first created to fit and confirm all new part parameters were correct and would interface with the existing test stand. Currently, initial calibration of the thrust stand with the appropriately sized load cell has been performed to assess the sensor uncertainty for the thrust measurement. Results Upon completion of the CAD model, the necessary parts were acquired and machined to replace the existing parts identified for reconfiguration. Once all the new parts were fitted, the calibration for the new low-thrust load cells was performed under this HCR summer program. With the calibration complete, the test stand will be successfully reconfigured for future small-scale RDRE testing. Conclusion The work done to reconfigure and catalog the test stand in the APECSLab facility will allow for the performance assessment of a small-scale, multimode RDRE for different operating mode behavior (e.g., continuous rotation, spinning, planar). In particular, linking the engine performance captured with this upgraded thrust stand to the minimum geometry sustaining robust detonation will directly demonstrate the potential benefits of a detonation-based propulsion system for in-space propulsion applications. The CAD model will make adding future components to the test stand easier and more efficient. Due to the overall work done this summer, more tests will be able to be conducted leading to more advancement in RDRE research.


Honors Capstone Research (HCR)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

College Name

College of Engineering


John Bennewitz

Publication Date


Document Type



Rotating Detonation Engines (RDRE), Flexures, Load Cell, Rocket Test Stand

Calibrated Thrust Measurement for Rotating Detonation Engines



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.