Overcoming Ariane’s quirks and foibles
The Liège heritage in traditional mechanical engineering
This year the cryogenic technology test site has been endowed with a specific test rig to carry out a campaign of tests which have been commissioned by Snecma. Twenty in total have been planned and will be geared towards studying for the Avio company the problem of air-tightness which becomes apparent when the Vulcan booster rocket’s oxygen turbopump is brought into use. It is necessary to discover the degree of friction and wear which gives rise to an unpredictable leak, still poorly defined, between the cold and hot sections of the rocket-engine. The engineers Patrick Kreit and Claude Dodet and the technicians Jean-Pol Dechamps and René Derwael have been called up for this series of tests, which is crucial for the future of the European launcher. For Jean-Luc Bozet and Albert Germain, given the responsibility of carrying out the contract, mastering this fault is crucial, as the uncertainty regarding this leak means that there are unknown parameters regarding the functioning of Ariane 5. It is also vital for the business company Arianespace, which needs to guarantee performance for its clients.
This test campaign, thanks to which the University of Liège will be able to make the European system of spatial transport less unpredictable and thus more efficient, is witness to the Liège potential in traditional mechanical engineering, to which tribology is connected. But this European reference point should delude nobody. Jean-Luc Bozet, who teaches tribology and mechanical engineering system design, notes that the image of traditional engineering no longer appeals to young people. He regrets this. From his point of view tribology, which is part of the proud history of mechanical engineering at Liège, remains essential for the transport industries (cars, aeronautics, railways, etc.), for energy production (turbines, wind machines, etc.), and for the propulsion and stabilization of spatial systems. He remains convinced that digital simulation software cannot replace work carried out on test rigs. The Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department moreover constitutes the heart of the Masters in Aerospace Civil Engineering, which is unique in the Walloon region.