Propulsion Laboratory making noise on campus

Propulsion Laboratory

Ashley Yarborough Practicum Contributor

Students at the Propulsion Laboratory on the Oregon State University campus have been testing rocket engines, which has been the cause of some loud noise this past week.

The noises can be compared to that of a gunshot, loud bang, or an explosion, according to an email from the university.

These noises are completely normal for rocket testing, according to Nancy Squires, a senior instructor of mechanical engineering at OSU.

One of the biggest problems with the propulsion laboratory is the noise as the surrounding community will be hearing loud noises at random times. The Propulsion Laboratory wants to let the public know that those noises are coming from them, unless stated otherwise.

According to the Propulsion Laboratory, nothing sinister is occurring at the facility, and nothing there can be weaponized. Most people don’t have access to the laboratory.

“Only those working directly with testing at the lab have access,” said David Blunck, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Students or faculty that have access to the facility are part of the Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (MIME) major.

The testing that creates the most noise is the Pulse Detonation Engine. This engine combusts at supersonic speed, which exceeds the speed of sound. This testing is being done in order to make coal a more energy-efficient resource.

“Coal is the number one energy source used in the United States,” Blunck said. The way energy is obtained from coal now could be vastly improved if testing on the Pulse Detonation Engine goes well.

The Department of Energy is helping to pay for the Pulse Detonation project over the next two years.

OSU didn’t always have a Propulsion Laboratory for students to work on projects like these. Squires said they received the propulsion laboratory just last year.

“Before the lab, we used to test the rockets in my horse pasture,” Squires said.

They needed the lab space in order to make sure that all lab protocols were followed, and that everyone stayed safe.

Safety is the top priority for everyone working at the propulsion laboratory. Safety is continuously being improved as the lab continues to grow.

“This lab provides high powered rocketry for students safely,” Squires said.

This Propulsion Laboratory is the only one of its kind in the entire northwest. It’s vital for a student’s success to be able to work in the propulsion lab.

“Students get to work hands on with rocketry” said Matt Zaiger, a graduate student working in the lab. This hands on experience gives students an edge in the job industry when graduating.

Students who have worked in the lab have almost always been picked up by a large company, such as SpaceX.

This fall there will be an official aerospace minor, the first of its kind here at OSU. Anyone can add aerospace as a minor if they want to, according to Squires. If anyone is interested in adding aerospace as a major, they may do so this fall term.

Today there will be a test with the Pulse Detonation Engine.

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