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A unique rocket that was five years in the making by students at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will be fired at the end of this month in cooperation with Rafael (the Israel Armaments Development Authority).
Prof Alon Gani of the Technion's aeronautics and space engineering department and Yitzhak Greenberg of Rafael said the new rocket was a "technological breakthrough."
The Technion announced on Monday that the rocket, weighing 90 kilos and 3.7 meters long, is called Ramtech. Of the "butt-joint" (ramming) type, such a rocket has never before been fired in Israel and is not yet in use anywhere else in the world. "We had no previous practical stage, and there was no test flight on which to base ourselves. We started from zero," they stressed.
The rocket is unique in that it uses solid fuel never used before in Israel. The Ramjet engine pressurizes the air aerodynamically because of its high speed, without the need for a compressor. It is a simple jet engine, without moving parts, which functions at much higher speeds than a turbojet engine.
Butt-joint engines are used mostly for long-distance missiles or, in the future, "in aircraft that will travel five to 10 times faster than the speed of sound," Gani said. "Besides the great speed, its main advantage is low fuel consumption - about a quarter to a third of a conventional rocket engine - which allows the aircraft to travel much longer distances."
The major shortcoming of this type of engine is that it cannot be launched from a standing position. It must first reach very high speeds, about twice the speed of sound. "Thus at the end of February, the rocket will be launched using a rocket engine," said Gani, "and only when it reaches very high speed (2.5 times the speed of sound) and at a height of four kilometers will the rocket action stage be completed. Then the butt-joint engine will start to operate."
The project was worked on for five years by about 20 Technion students, supervised by Technion faculty members, with funding from the Dvora Foundation in the Technion and supported by Technion graduate Greenberg, who is today at Rafael. Most of the students who participated in the project have already graduated, and the launch team will be comprised of four students, one of them female.