SpaceX teams up with research institutions to improve rocket engine development

Timothy Prickett Morgan, for The Platform:

The computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software that is used to simulate the movement of fluids and gases and their ignition inside of all kinds of engines is particularly bad at assisting in rocket engine design.

“Methane is a fairly simple hydrocarbon that is perfectly good as a fuel,” Lichtl said. “The challenge here is to design an engine that works efficiently with such a compound. But rocket engine CFD is hard. Really hard.”

And so, SpaceX is working with various academic research institutions and Sandia National Laboratories to come up with its very own CFD software, which will be used to create future – and beefier – versions of the company’s Merlin rocket engines suitable for the trip to Mars and able to burn methane as a fuel.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at SpaceX, and the broader application of these advancements is a great unknown.

I love getting a peek behind the scenes of Elon Musk’s operations, but, in my opinion, he and his team (and the institutions they’re partnered with) have positioned themselves to contribute as much to human advancement as any of history’s great innovators. It sounds like hyperbole, until you read about each new advancement in the news.