Pakistan’s first-ever hybrid rocket readying for launch

Published: August 27, 2016
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The DSU Star Busters team tested Raheel 1 three times during August, with the most successful test conducted on August 12. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

The DSU Star Busters team tested Raheel 1 three times during August, with the most successful test conducted on August 12. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Set the five-kilogramme aluminum structure on a stand fixed with the load cell sensor and attach the oxygen fuel tank in the main nozzle and you are all set to ignite the first-ever hybrid rocket made in Pakistan by two Defence Housing Authority Suffa University (DSU) mechanical engineering final-year students, Waqas Aslam and Khizar Siddiqui and deputy-head of mechanical engineering department Dr Bilal Ahmed Siddiqui – team DSU Star Busters.

The one-of-a-kind hybrid rocket has been named Raheel 1, Raheel meaning Voyager, which is the name of National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa’s) interstellar mission programme. The idea to make a hybrid rocket that works with the fuel and oxidiser mix was the brain child of Dr Siddiqui, who researched on the technology for more than a year.

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“I always wanted to do something to help in aerospace engineering,” said Dr Siddiqui, who has done his masters in aerospace engineering and PhD in robotics, while talking to The Express Tribune

DSU’s rocketry programme is the second such university-level programme in Asia and the varsity is among 20 universities in the world doing cutting edge research in the field, claimed Dr Siddiqui, explaining that other than DSU, only India is working on such technology in Asia.

The DSU Star Busters team tested Raheel 1 three times during August, with the most successful test conducted on August 12. The rocket’s fire was checked and tested for five seconds, in which it produced a thrust force of over 50 kilogrammes. “A liquid oxygen fuel tank, containing  six litres of fuel, is used to support the rocket,” informed Dr Siddiqui.

“The structure of Raheel 1, that cost nearly Rs50,000, took around six months to complete,” stated Aslam, adding that their team will take another eight months to further develop and refine their innovation.

The rocket can be used in supersonic cars and small satellites in the future. “The shape and size can vary with the same formula and research and it will be very cheap to make, as compared to other options available in the country,” said Khizar.

“We are using the same formula and research to make the fastest car in Asia, supported by the university, that will have horsepower of 500km per hour,” informed Dr Siddiqui.

“Raheel 1 is now in testing phase and the students are looking after time lapse and all other factors,” said mechanical lab engineer Mahrukh Mumtaz Hussain, adding that Pakistan has not done much work in this field because of its high cost, however, this innovation [Raheel 1] will bring the cost down.

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The three-man team has also developed a computer application through which they can control and evaluate the speed and thrust of the rocket. “A micro-controller is attached to the rocket’s stand that is connected to the computer application. It detects the rocket’s force, time and all other factors,” said Dr Siddiqui.

Structure explained

A hybrid rocket is made up of an aluminum body with a graphite coat inside as it can work on higher temperature as well, explained Dr Siddiqui, showing the thick, black coat inside Raheel 1.

“We have used candle wax inside the rocket that can also be replaced with leather or rubber,” he said, adding that the wax can be reused after cooling down in 15minutes. Leather and rubber are not environment-friendly elements, he added.

Testing precautions

We use gloves, goggles, fire extinguishers and keep a decent distance from the testing area as precautions at the time of testing, said Dr Siddiqui, adding that currently, Raheel 1 can be tested for more than a minute, but since DSU is located in a residential area, it is difficult to do so.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Pagal
    Aug 27, 2016 - 9:28AM

    The unit for horsepower is horse power not kilometers per hour, pls correct that or you mean it to be a speed of x kilometers per hour. Recommend

  • Malik Saab
    Aug 27, 2016 - 10:01AM

    If you think that this technology is unique then apply for the Patent as soon as possible,. especially for EU, American and Japanese patents. There are patent wars going on around the world. If you have a good innovative idea then the next step is to protect your idea by Patenting it sooner that later. Recommend

  • harkol
    Aug 27, 2016 - 10:31AM

    Congrats to the young engineers for accomplishing this. Creditable feat.Recommend

  • Mayor
    Aug 27, 2016 - 10:47AM

    While I applaud these guys, but I am afraid to say these kind of rockets may become obsolete. India is working on scram jet Engine for which the test launch will be tomorrow conducted by ISRO. Scram jet Engine may replace even the Jet Engine in future. Recommend

  • Logic
    Aug 27, 2016 - 12:22PM

    keep it up!!!Recommend

  • Ibrahim
    Aug 27, 2016 - 12:34PM

    India is trying self-breathing rockets which collect oxygen from atmosphere while flying. This will avoid filling the oxidiser with propellant thereby reducing the weight of the rocket which ultimately allow increase in the weight of the satellite.Recommend

  • harkol
    Aug 27, 2016 - 3:36PM

    @Mayor:

    What ISRO’s abilities got to do with Final Year engineering student’s achievement. One is done by a professional organization, the other is done by student engineers – which is what makes it amazing.Recommend

  • Anonymous Wellwisher
    Aug 27, 2016 - 8:11PM

    @Mayor, Thanks for enlightening achievement of ISRO and may Indian people prosper. If your comment was to belittle these grad students achievement, then you are belittling ISRO’s seasoned and experienced scientists instead, by comparing novice grads with seasoned scientists. If your comment is for the purpose of providing direction of what others are doing in the same academic field, than thank you for your suggestion and kind words. God bless!!Recommend

  • Taker
    Aug 27, 2016 - 8:32PM

    That’s cute scram jet …I think people don’t study the principal of different technologies and just comment do you think scram jet can breath in space.? That will be interesting…….Recommend

  • jab
    Aug 27, 2016 - 10:15PM

    Good to see , pakistani students working on aerospace engineering, it’s the need of the hour Recommend

  • ali.asghar
    Aug 28, 2016 - 12:19AM

    This technology is already achieved by Pakistan and already done by Pakistani university students as project 2 years back Recommend

  • nasir ali
    Aug 28, 2016 - 2:05AM

    @Mayor:
    Comparing ISRO scientists with students is foolish but then we Indians are so obsessed with Pakistan that sanity has taken a leave Recommend

  • bharat
    Aug 28, 2016 - 8:51AM

    Full credit to the youngsters.Its commendable.Recommend

  • Hello
    Aug 28, 2016 - 3:52PM

    Remember the car that could run on water instead of gasoline? Hope it’s not the same snake oil “science.”Recommend

  • Shakti
    Aug 28, 2016 - 5:11PM

    @Taker: Scram jets are for endo-atmospheric propulsion. It is not made to go into outer space. Recommend

  • raw is war
    Aug 28, 2016 - 5:41PM

    Hopefully these technologies are not put to wrong use.Recommend

  • Indian
    Aug 28, 2016 - 5:46PM

    The current rocket technology is not going to get obsolete very soon. The scram jet engines of course breath air from the atmosphere but to create the required thrust and maintain the flame, they need to be at higher speeds. The higher speeds increases the mass flow rate of oxygen in the engine thus compressing them to a point where it can be mixed with the fuel to create a right mixture which can be ignited to create thrust to accelerate a spacecraft. So in order for a scram jet engine to work, It has to be tied with the conventional rocket or a jet engine to get to that speed. Recommend

  • Indian
    Aug 28, 2016 - 5:48PM

    The current rocket technology is not going to get obsolete very soon. The scram jet engines of course breath air from the atmosphere but to create the required thrust and maintain the flame, they need to be at higher speeds. The higher speeds increases the mass flow rate of oxygen in the engine thus compressing them to a point where it can be mixed with the fuel to create a right mixture which can be ignited to create thrust to accelerate a spacecraft. So in order for a scram jet engine to work, It has to be tied with the conventional rocket or a jet engine to get to that speed. So its not a replacement for the current technology.Recommend

  • raw is war
    Aug 28, 2016 - 8:23PM

    Looks suspiciously like a borewell pump.Recommend

  • Rashid
    Aug 28, 2016 - 10:09PM

    @Ibrahim:
    All Scramjets need to be launched by, Solid/Liquid Rockets,
    I am not so sure if the scram jet is going to replace jets that soon,
    Plus we can Make things that can act as Turbojet-> Ram jet -> Scramjet at different phases of flight,
    but the Mechanism will be Extremely Difficult, Something similar is SR-71, and it is out of services cause of Extensive Mechanical challenges in Operation and Maintenance.

    Alos it is Good thing that our Students are trying at least something tangible in final Year projects,

    But the Cost and Time taken is just too much, for such a low scale, but it will provide a good “Do it By hand” ExampleRecommend

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