Direct Spark Ignition

Within the FLPP (Future Launcher Preparatory Program), APP is developing a “Direct Spark Ignition” system for starting a (re-startable) launcher upper stage engine.

The Direct Spark Ignition principle is based on creating plasma directly in the engine’s combustion chamber at a location favorable for ignition, similar to a gas-turbine engine. If successful, this system would make the use of a traditional torch igniter and feed-system obsolete with potentially massive savings in mass and costs.

Direct Spark Ignition System
Direct Spark Ignition System

APP is using Coil-on-Plug technology which has been developed for the VINCI upper stage engine together with Meggitt in France. Under the FLPP project a proof-of-principle test campaign has been performed at TNO in Rijswijk, successfully demonstrating ignition of a LOX/GH2 propellant mixture with the direct spark technology at sub-scale level.

 Subscale testing Direct Spark Ignition (1)
Subscale testing Direct Spark Ignition (1)
 Subscale testing of Direct Spark Ignition (2)
Subscale testing of Direct Spark Ignition (2)

After the sub-scale test campaign the direct spark technology has been successfully tested on a thrust chamber at the DLR’s P8 facility, demonstrating the feasibility to ignite the full engine under representative operational conditions with the direct spark technology.

 Direct Spark subscale testing at DLR
Direct Spark subscale testing at DLR

As a follow-on activity the next step is design optimisation and to demonstrate maturity of the direct spark ignition system on the future FLPP Expander Technology Integrated Demonstrator (ETID) test campaign at DLR P3.2.