The team that have taken the aerospike rocket from concept to reality is NextAero. The aerospike project is codenamed ‘ProjectX’. The team consists of six post-graduate students with backgrounds in fluid mechanics, jet noise, combustion, and aerodynamics. They are currently completing Ph.Ds as a part of the Laboratory for Turbulence Research in Aerospace and Combustion (LTRAC), in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Monash University.
Graham is currently a Ph.D. student in LTRAC at Monash University. He started his Ph.D. after completing a degree in aerospace engineering from RMIT University. From what started as an idea for a collaboration between students of fluid mechanics and additive manufacturing, Graham has led the ProjectX team through the concept, preliminary design, detailed design, manufacture, and testing of ProjectX. Apart from his role as team leader, he is also the propellant system and control system specialist.
In his day to day work as a Ph.D. student, he studies aerospace jet noise and acoustics to answer larger questions such as ‘Why are jet engines noisy?’ and ‘How does turbulence contribute to noise pollution?’. Specifically, he works on the twin engine configuration, which was used on the Concorde and will feature in super and hypersonic aircraft of the future. Graham has interned at GE Power (previously Alstom) and in the Autonomous Systems Lab at CSIRO working on the Zebedee mobile 3D laser mapper. He is excited to take the aerospike project further in the future and develop bleeding edge aerospace technology in Australia.
Thomas was attracted to aerospace engineering from an early interest in racecar aerodynamics. He was instrumental in the design and manufacture of the aerodynamics package for the Monash Motorsport Formula SAE team, during a five-year stint in which Monash was unbeaten in Australia and consistently ranked in the world Top 10. For his PhD, Tom is investigating the injection of gaseous fuels for high-speed combustors. As part of this project, he designed and manufactured a new Mach 4 wind tunnel facility, extending his aerodynamic design experience into supersonics. Tom’s design capabilities were fundamental to the development of the ProjectX engine. His practical expertise enabled him to lead the design and assembly of the engine. He was drawn to the project as he cannot resist a challenge, and is passionate about developing cutting-edge technologies. He has worked for Rolls-Royce in Germany, and has spent his life developing the skills that will enable him to meaningfully contribute to the aerospace industry, in which he plans to build a career.
Dominic graduated with a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering, and Bachelor of Science with majors in astrophysics and applied mathematics from Monash University. In his penultimate year he became a member the Monash Unmanned Aerial Systems team, which designs, manufactures, and maintains autonomous airframes. He went on to complete an internship with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (now Group) where he performed experiments in their continuous transonic wind tunnel facility before starting a Ph.D. with LTRAC. His research focuses on the critical analysis of supersonic jet noise models to move towards a unified methodology for efficient noise predictions. Allured by the intricate internal geometries afforded by additive manufacturing technology, Dominic develops and maintains the code-bases necessary for the preliminary design, sizing, and operation of the ProjectX aerospike rocket engine.
Nick’s early interest in aerospace engineering stemmed from a fascination with cycling aerodynamics, and a desire to understand the science behind the complex shapes of time trial bicycles. He developed practical skills during a ten-year period as a part-time bicycle mechanic, a job held in tandem with his high schooling and undergraduate degree. He was also a member of the Monash Motorsport Formula SAE team, where he contributed to the design and testing of the aerodynamics on the competition-winning M11 racecar.
Nick’s PhD is on the fluid mechanics of sprays from medical inhalers, using numerical models and optical diagnostics at LTRAC. He has performed experiments with the Fuel Spray Group at the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron in Chicago, providing real-time imaging of the spray formation processes in these devices. For the ProjectX team, Nick handles the scientific measurement of engine performance, including thrust and sound generation. His experience with experimental data analysis and signal processing made him well suited to take on this role. The opportunity to work with a highly motivated team, apply his aerospace engineering education, and work with world-leading manufacturing technologies proved irresistible for Nick. He has won awards for engineering education and research communication, and will present the results of the rocket engine test at the International Astronautical Congress in September 2017.
Joel commenced his PhD after completing a double degree at Monash University in aerospace engineering and science, with majors in applied mathematics and astrophysics. His research looks at the sound production mechanisms of supersonic impinging jets, investigating the sources of undesirable, intense acoustic tones. Joel was inspired to join the rocket project due to passion for science and the potential that such a project could have for the future of spacecraft design in Australia. Within the rocket project, Joel’s main focus to determine the cooling specifications and internal wall thicknesses required to prevent damage within the engine due to the extreme temperatures and pressures generated from the combustion process.
Marcus has a passion for aerospace and astrophysics and is currently a Ph.D. student at LTRAC. He obtained his Aerospace Engineering and Science undergraduate degree from Monash University. He has previously interned at Boeing Aerostructures Australia, Gemini South Observatory and DNV-GL. For his PhD, Marcus is studying the production of broadband shock-associated noise in imperfectly expanded supersonic jets. His project includes the design and commission of a new anechoic jet facility, as well as the acquisition and analysis of experimental data in that facility. Marcus is responsible for the design and construction of the static test rig for the rocket as well as being the safety officer for ProjectX. The opportunity to work with like-minded people using cutting edge technology is something he couldn’t miss out on. His ultimate dream would be to see Australia be at the forefront in space technologies. In his non-academic life, Marcus plays ice hockey and enjoys cheering for his favourite team the New York Rangers.