Engineering pioneer Vert has begun phase two of a research project that could result in its technology taking astronauts into space.
The Edinburgh company has successfully completed initial tests with the European Space Agency . It wants to find out whether Vert’s patented Conical Rotary Compressor (CRC) is suitable for pumping rocket fuel.
Vert’s CRC is designed to minimise the noise and vibration which can impact on accuracy in high-precision engineering that requires a compressor. But the ESA project aims to find out if it can act as a lightweight alternative to existing engine technology, allowing rockets to travel faster and further.
The initial contract signed with the ESA in October 2018 involved laboratory testing at Vert’s design centre in Edinburgh and work at the ESA’s testing facilities in the Netherlands.
David Noake, head of design at Vert, explained the next stage of the project will find out how the compressor works in combination with different propellants.
He said: “It is a new and different application of our technology. We have been commercially developing the CRC for air compression and gas compression, so to use it as a pump means there are a different set of parameters for its operation. Space is quite a tough sector to get into because of the need for high quality assurances – your technology has to go through extremely rigorous testing before it will be approved for use in space.
“Sending systems into space takes a long time and is quite expensive. A company of our size is not able to do that on its own, so being part of this ESA programme is a fantastic opportunity.”
Vert was set up in 2013 to develop the CRC which it says is one of the biggest innovations in the compressed air industry for over 40 years. The technology has previously been used as a prototype satellite cooling system produced in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence’s Centre for Defence Enterprise. The project led to the partnership with ESA in 2017.