Cronos: A hybrid-fueled sounding rocket designed and manufactured by a University-student team

At Libre Space Foundation (LSF), we support open-source projects that enhance scientific research and promote knowledge. For the past two years, and true to our values, members of the LSF team have been overseeing the development of Cronos. A hybrid-fueled sounding rocket that is an inspiring and promising project engineered by a talented university-student team.

Project Cronos: A Closer Look

The team

Cronos is a hybrid-fueled sounding rocket. It is a student-researched and developed (SRAD) project designed and manufactured by White Noise and Libre Space Foundation (LSF). White Noise is an open-source aerospace engineering team comprised solely of university students. The team collaborates closely with Libre Space Foundation to develop the sounding rocket in an open and participatory manner. 

Engineered at, at LSF’s headquarters in Athens, Greece, the Cronos project is built to enhance knowledge. By enabling University students to hone their hard skills ( in development, electronics, avionics and mechanics) as well as their soft skills (in creating solid collaborations, communication strategies and organising the processes in a professional way).

The team initially embarked on building the project to participate in international student competitions, but these were postponed due to the pandemic. Cronos, thus, became a lesson in itself. An educational endeavour. The highly-focused and hard-working team devoted itself to exploring its capabilities and familiarising itself with the processes of following open development and open-source methodologies.

The sounding rocket

Cronos is designed to lift 4kg of deployable payload mass, housed right below the airframe’s nose cone. Its paraffin wax and nitrous oxide hybrid propulsion system can produce an estimated 3000 N of thrust for approximately 3s. The sounding rocket is estimated to reach Mach 0.88 and an apogee of 3km AGL. Note that it is designed to be safely recovered after the launch and to achieve this when at apogee, two parachutes will be ejected by utilising CO2 cartridges. These will contribute to the safe recovery of the rocket in its entirety, thus, making Cronos a sounding rocket that is 100% reusable.

The story so far 

Reaching the First Significant Milestone: A successful Cold Flow Test

After two long years of continuous tinkering, the time was ripe for the White Noise team to run the first Cold Flow Test of the Cronos’s rocket engine at the end of March 2022. In aerospace engineering, Cold Flow Testing is a significant step in the manufacturing process of a rocket; it is the testing of the rocket’s engine without firing it. This test is performed to validate the integrity of the engine’s injector, the part that atomises the oxidizer and feeds it to the combustion chamber. 

The Cold Flow Test: Important lessons learned

The White Noise team of University students organised, ran and brought to completion successfully the first Cold Flow Test of Cronos’s engine. With it, Cronos became the first hybrid-fueled sounding rocket to have achieved that in Greece and thus, the White Noise team reached a new, noteworthy Milestone. Following the steps of the process with great care and precision, taking all the necessary safety measures and showing outstanding professionalism in organising and carrying out the Testing from start to finish.

Want to join the team and get involved with the project?

Cronos is an aspiring project bringing together University students from different disciplines. As part of the Libre Space Foundation, the project is backed by a diverse, international community, welcoming people from different continents, cultures and backgrounds. As with all the LSF projects, Cronos too is developed in a collaborative, open-source way and is fostered by an inclusive community. If you want to keep track of all the updates on the project, take part in the conversations and meet the team, you can follow the dedicated Cronos Rocketry element/matrix channel. You are welcome to join the channel, introduce yourself and contribute to the discussions there. You can also have a look at the Cronos Rocketry repository on Gitlab.

What’s next?

With the first Cold Flow Testing successfully coming to completion, the team is working towards the Static Test, which is the next significant milestone to reach. 

At the same time, all the different groups within the White Noise team are working on their sub-projects about Cronos. They have been focusing on testing and debugging the latest addition of PCBs.

PCBs are considered to be among the most complicated parts of a rocket. This is because they are responsible for handling data from a wide variety of sensors and deciding upon the progress of the launch sequence.

The team has also been working on manufacturing the carbon fibre and fibreglass composite parts of the rocket’s outer body tubes and fins; as well as testing and continuously verifying the proper functionality of the rocket’s CO2 recovery system. They have also been upgrading their communications and reach-out strategy and finding ways to network with other teams and promote knowledge. All the working groups have been collaborating closely, running all the processes successfully to create Cronos, turning it into an aspiring educational initiative. The team has been aiming at making the sounding rocket the test platform for exploring future possibilities of building more advanced rockets capable of reaching higher altitudes-designed and manufactured in a collaborative and participatory way.

In their words the White Noise team..

….aspires to encourage the next generation of space exploration through experience and engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

The Cronos, hybrid-fueled sounding rocket is powered by a hardworking team of University students dedicated to following open-source methodologies, collecting data and sharing the knowledge acquired with the world. They have worked through the difficulties and have successfully overcome the pandemic obstacles, reaching the first Cold Flow Test. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for them and the Cronos sounding rocket.  


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