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Jack James Marlow, PhD student, Aerospace & Aircraft Engineering

We're all aware of high-profile human space flights led by the US Space Shuttle programme, or the on-going development of the International Space Station. But rocket launches are not just about sending men and women into space.

The use of micro and nano-satellites plays a key part in on-going research as well as in-orbit inspections of larger satellites. However, the high development and manufacturing costs of liquid rocket engines have impacted on the price charged by launch service providers, thereby causing a major threat to the emerging markets for micro and nano- satellites as their owners and operators struggle to find suitable launch opportunities.

Jack James (red shirt) with the bi-propellant rocket engine he designed and manufactured in house.

Jack James Marlow is a second year PhD student and his research project will identify new approaches to rocket engine design to enable the development of an affordable and effective propulsion system for launch vehicles.

The rocket design and test facilities at Roehampton Vale* will help Jack James to design a liquid propellant rocket engine which will assist in the demonstration of new technologies (as a research tool for other students as well as a consultancy resource for industry) and - crucially - offer the potential for the low-cost manufacture of propulsion systems.

Jack James explains: "A lower cost propulsion system would help in reducing space mission launch costs by enabling the development of a more economical launch vehicle. This would improve access to space, giving more customers the opportunity to fly small satellites and experience the value from a low cost space mission."

Solid fuel rocket demonstration

"It would allow the UK to re-enter the market for providing launch services for small satellites, while also boosting UK space activities such as propulsion and small space missions in general, generating more income and trade for the UK space sector and helping to meet the 20 year growth target set by government for the sector".

So next time you're looking at the night sky, have a thought for Jack James and his efforts to bring space launch costs down a little nearer to earth.

*The Kingston University Rocket Laboratory has been set up to support low cost research into new and novel cooling and pressurisation approaches for chemical rocket engines. Developed by Dr Chris Welch and Dr Adam Baker with students Jack James Marlow and Philip Allen, the facility includes a sound insulated, blast protected structure with air exchange ventilation and impact resistant viewports to monitor hot firing tests. A computer link allows for remote operation, data acquisition and automatically sequenced, controlled test firing. For more information, please contact Dr Adam Baker -