CEAS Space Journal

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 273–286 | Cite as

Laser ignition of a multi-injector LOX/methane combustor

  • Michael BörnerEmail author
  • Chiara Manfletti
  • Justin Hardi
  • Dmitry Suslov
  • Gerhard Kroupa
  • Michael Oschwald
Original Paper


This paper reports the results of a test campaign of a laser-ignited combustion chamber with 15 shear coaxial injectors for the propellant combination LOX/methane. 259 ignition tests were performed for sea-level conditions. The igniter based on a monolithic ceramic laser system was directly attached to the combustion chamber and delivered 20 pulses with individual pulse energies of \({33.2 \pm 0.8 \,\text{ mJ }}\) at 1064 nm wavelength and 2.3 ns FWHM pulse length. The applicability, reliability, and reusability of this ignition technology are demonstrated and the associated challenges during the start-up process induced by the oxygen two-phase flow are formulated. The ignition quality and pressure dynamics are evaluated using 14 dynamic pressure sensors distributed both azimuthally and axially along the combustion chamber wall. The influence of test sequencing on the ignition process is briefly discussed and the relevance of the injection timing of the propellants for the ignition process is described. The flame anchoring and stabilization process, as monitored using an optical probe system close to the injector faceplate connected to photomultiplier elements, is presented. For some of the ignition tests, non-uniform anchoring was detected with no influence onto the anchoring at steady-state conditions. The non-uniform anchoring can be explained by the inhomogeneous, transient injection of the two-phase flow of oxygen across the faceplate. This characteristic is verified by liquid nitrogen cold flow tests that were recorded by high-speed imaging. We conclude that by adapting the ignition sequence, laser ignition by optical breakdown of the propellants within the shear layer of a coaxial shear injector is a reliable ignition technology for LOX/methane combustors without significant over-pressure levels.


Ignition Laser ignition LOX/CH\(_{4}\) Methane Green propellants Rocket engine 

List of symbols


Combustor model A


Computational fluid dynamics






Carbon monoxide


Single-lens reflex camera


Full width at half maximum


Gaseous methane


Gaseous hydrogen


Gaseous oxygen




Laser ablation ignition


Liquid nitrogen


Liquefied natural gas


Liquid oxygen


Laser plasma ignition




Hydroxyl radical


Orbital maneuvering system


Optical probe #1


Giant pulse formation


Reaction control system


Ratio of oxygen to fuel mass flow


Rocket propellant 1


Diameter of the laser pulse at the focal point


Laser pulse energy


Laser intensity


Laser wavelength

\(\mathcal {O}( \tau )\)

Order of magnitude of time

\(\tau _\mathrm{pulse}\)

laser pulse length (FWHM)











The authors greatly acknowledge the support of the DLR P8 test facility team and Alex Grebe during the campaign and of Stefan Gröning for help with the optical probe system.


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Copyright information

© CEAS 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Space PropulsionGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)LampoldshausenGermany
  2. 2.European Space Agency (ESA)ParisFrance
  3. 3.CTR Carinthian Tech Research AGVillachAustria

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