A Glimpse into CTU Space Research’s Illustria Rocket: The Largest of its Kind in the Czech Republic

A Glimpse into CTU Space Research’s Illustria Rocket: The Largest of its Kind in the Czech Republic

Laboratory CTU Space Research presented the long-awaited civilian Illustrious rocket. Although it will not compete with Elon and NASA yet, it is still the same the largest rocket of its kind made in the Czech Republic.

I am illustrious student competition racketwhich has been developed for the past few years by future engineers from CTU with the contribution of other smart minds from matphysis or perhaps Libertarian techniques. He will make his debut in a few weeks at the Portuguese race EuRoC – European Rocketry Challenge.

Video: What does the Illustria rocket consist of (detailed photos can be found in the gallery)

208 seconds of hope and fear

If all goes according to plan, the Illustria should ignite its hybrid fuel after launch and run 26 seconds reach an apogee in height 3,000 meters above the ground. Then the on-board computer gives the command to pressurize the cupola, it releases and the rocket launches parachute back to the earth’s surface where it will land in time T+208 seconds.

The Illustria rocket in numbers

Length: 3 520 mm
Diameter: 161 mm
Mass: 28,817 kg
Planned access: 3,000 meters
Character of flight: Initial ignition, inertial flight, parachute release
Total flight time: 208 seconds (26.7 seconds to reach apogee)
Fuel: rigid ABS, oxidizer N₂O, pressure gas N₂
Tah: 1,849 N (total impulse 9,035 Ns)
Payload: 2 cubesaty
Communication: LoRa
Landing: Parachute
Involved students: 86
Development time: 2 years

In competitions, it’s not about who can fly the highest

Now you might say that reaching a height of three kilometers is still a long way from some Czech space exploration, but that is not even the goal of similar competitions. It’s about something much more complicated than that load the rocket with fuelpress the big red button and hope that mine will reach the highest of all.

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Participants of this year’s EuRoC 2023 and a diagram of the planned Illustria flight

The laurels of victory will be won by the team that reaches a height of 3,000 meters. Not a hair more and not a hair less. Well, that’s exactly the math trick, hours spent with a calculator in hand and part and parcel of chance if the rocket isn’t hit by a strong gust of wind.


Even if the rocket does not fly into space, engineers are already testing how the payload could work. The entire rocket therefore consists of several functional modules connected by aluminum rings. The one under the dome with a parachute is used for payload.

Flight computer with control SoC LoRA-E5-HFwhich combines both arm microcontroller from ST, so sungigagertz radio transmitter SX126X (LoRa). Notice the loud buzzer in the bottom center that lets you know from afar where the rocket is after impact

It will not be empty, but instead will carry a measuring device for sampling. Structurally, it will be a probe with the dimensions of two cubesats – minisatellites. After the rocket hits, scientists can analyze the samples.

Commercial suborbital rockets (see, for example, the Swedish Esrange Space Center), which do not launch satellites into orbit, but return by parachute back into the atmosphere, work in a similar way. Illustria will also try it, although understandably (for now) on a much smaller scale.

How to fly within 3 km and not even an inch higher?

Designers basically have three basic options to achieve the exact apogee level (highest point of flight). Two active and one passive. Either they will be a racket drive by adjusting engine thrustor brake aerodynamically for example using wings and other elements.

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Humble beginnings with much smaller rackets. Illustria will be a completely different mouthful

The third passive option, which will also be used by CTU students in October, is calculation of the ideal initial impulse of a rocket enginewhich will give Illustria all the kinetic energy at the start.

Rocket fuel from a regular 3D printer

And what does such a rocket engine actually burn? There are many technologies, but fans of home 3D printing may be surprised and shocked that Illustria (and many other model rockets on solid fuel) burns dust-free thermoplastic ABS.

An ABS cylinder printed on a regular 3D printer serves as solid fuel

So yes, if you buy three or four rolls of filament for a home 3D printer, you can print rocket fuel in the form of a rigid plastic cylinder with a central cross-section in which the combustion itself will take place.

The burning itself takes place in the printed holes. The fuel is inserted in a metal combustion chamber with a replaceable nozzle at the end. Notice the flue gas residue from the test (see video below)

Combustion needs oxygen, and Illustria produces it from its own sources. Solid roller from akrylonitrilebof thestherefore, the tyrene is supplemented by an oxidizer under high pressure, which regulates another auxiliary – so-called pusher – gas. Nitrogen oxide is used as an oxidizer N₂O and pure nitrogen as the pressure gas N₂.

An oxidizer and a propellant turn the plastic campfire into a thrusting flamethrower that sends 28kg of Illustria into the air

Tah 1 849 N

In short, when the operator presses a button, the electronic fuze ignites the solid fuel, the N₂O supplies oxygen under high pressure, and the rocket transforms into a flamethrower with by 1,849 N thrust a with a total impulse of 9,035 Ns.

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Video: Rocket development and rocket engine test

The cylinder of plastic will burn up in a few seconds and the rocket will continue to climb quietly until it exhausts all of its initial kinetic energy, reaches apogee (ideally at 3,000 meters above the ground) and deploys its parachute to descend back to earth.

Fingers crossed that it works out

One can only hope that the first sharp start of the rocket at the Portuguese competition will turn out exactly like that EuRoC. Almost anything can go wrong, so there will be nerves and the students from CTU Space Research will certainly brag about the result on their social networks. You can watch them at Instagram, Facebook and also LinkedIn.

Illustria is only one of the first articles of a larger and much more ambitious vision

If it works out, in the foreseeable future we could expect a sharp test in the territory of the Czech Republic. That would certainly be a spectacle, in local competitions is usually only flown to a height of about one kilometer and with much smaller rockets.

2023-09-26 17:41:49
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