Mechanical Engineering Students Triumph at IASSA SymposiumGeneral

From left: Dr Mike Brooks of UKZN, Dr Glen Snedden of the CSIR and UKZN aerospace students Mr Nalendran Singh, Mr Donald Fitzgerald and Mr Creason Chetty.From left: Dr Mike Brooks of UKZN, Dr Glen Snedden of the CSIR and UKZN aerospace students Mr Nalendran Singh, Mr Donald Fitzgerald and Mr Creason Chetty.

Two Mechanical Engineering Masters students in the Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG) won a top award at this year’s International Aerospace Symposium of South Africa (IASSA) at the CSIR in Pretoria.

They were Mr Creason Chetty and Mr Nalendran Singh, who scooped first place for their presentation on UKZN’s Small-Satellite Liquid Propellant Booster Engine (SAFFIRE).

Meanwhile, fellow student, Mr Donald Fitzgerald, presented a paper titled: “Design and Aerodynamic Analysis of a Supersonic Turbine to Drive a Turbopump in a Commercial Rocket Booster Engine”.

Chetty and Singh were supervised by UKZN’s Professor Graham Smith and Dr Michael Brooks as well as Dr Glen Snedden of the CSIR.

Their presentation covered a brand new liquid propellant rocket engine, SAFFIRE, whose combustion chamber is fed by two pumps powered by individual electric motors, rather than a conventional gas turbine.

‘SAFFIRE aims to be the first South African rocket engine that uses this unique drive system,’ explained Singh.

‘The presentation intrigued the audience as electropump technology in rocket engines is a relatively new concept. There is only one commercial company we’re aware of that has implemented this technology in a commercial launch vehicle, which they are yet to test.’

Chetty and Singh both enjoyed the experience of the event which heightened their exposure to the aeronautical and aerospace industry and presented an opportunity to interact with experts and professionals in this field.

The students, who were inspired to study in the field by an early fascination with flight, space and astronomy, both aim to continue in the aerospace arena as their careers progress. This interest is fuelled by their involvement in ASReG, a group dedicated to developing aerospace technologies related to rockets and space vehicles and to cultivating skills development in aerospace engineering.

‘Although ASReG is focused on developing liquid and hybrid rocket propulsion technologies, our primary output is skilled engineers who can contribute to high-tech sectors of the economy,’ said Brooks, who co-heads ASReG.

‘The work that our propulsion students do is extremely complex, but Creason and Nalen did an admirable job of flying the UKZN flag during the IASSA event, and we’re delighted that they won first prize for their excellent research paper on turbopump impeller design.’

Christine Cuénod