ICARUS - RESEARCH
Founded in 2020, ICARUS is a research and development project on active attitude control technologies for future rocket teams. These technologies are crucial throughout the flight to control the flight and its smooth progress. The main objective is also to get our rockets back by landing them propulsively by reigniting their engines in the same way SpaceX is known to do, thus training students in technologies that are crucial to lowering the cost of access to space.
To support the development of our guidance, navigation and control algorithms, the team is developing several test platforms in parallel. Currently, a drone designed to replicate the behaviour of a rocket is making numerous test flights and, in the future, the team also plans to develop small sounding rockets and a Hopper, a vehicle which will be housing our future Bi-Liquid engine. This Hopper will aim to make the first retro landing powered by a student team, a worlds first.
TECHNOLOGIES IN DEVELOPMENT
If the ICARUS project works on concrete technologies, the base of the project remains the development of the various control, navigation and guidance algorithms. These algorithms aim to control the stability of the rocket as well as to optimize its trajectory throughout the flight in order to reach its objective, and in a near future to succeed in landing. Due to the complexity of the task and the number of parameters to be taken into account, the team chose to use predictive control techniques based on a dynamic model previously developed on a simulator. From the flight data collected by the avionics, this technique makes it possible to anticipate in quasi real time the future evolution of the state of the rocket and thus to optimize the control instructions by taking into account the future evolution of the state of the rocket.
As the first test platform developed and built by the team in 2020, our drone performs test flights on campus very regularly.
It allows us to test different ideas and strategies to improve and develop our flight algorithms. The development of a new, more powerful and more modular version is in progress, ahead of a more ambitious test campaign.
The team is currently investigating opportunities to design a new and more advanced test platform, and the implementation of active attitude control on a sounding rocket will be our next step. A lightweight, solid motor-powered rocket will allow us to experiment with a more demanding flight environment and validate our dynamic models. Future ICARUS vehicles and launches will be based on the experience gained during the flight campaigns of this sounding rocket.
First vehicle to be powered by the new Bi-Liquid engine developed by the EPFL Rocket Team, the Hopper will be our long term test platform. Entirely designed by the ICARUS team, it will allow us to learn how to control the new engine and make the first landings during an ambitious test flight campaign. The team is currently studying the different concepts while sizing the future vehicle.