Interviewee: Felice ten Voorde

Edited by Jesse van Leeuwen

 

This is the first of a series of blogs introducing all the departments of AeroDelft! As we move in time, you will get a better idea of how the team is structured and how all departments work as a whole towards our common goal. First up is a department with some of our most experienced team members. The Prototype Propulsion department continues its research and production from last year in order to make the prototype fly on liquid hydrogen. All of the members have a background in Aerospace Engineering and their passion and ambition for sustainable aviation has been a blessing to the team. Without giving too much away, let’s get into the interview with the department!

 

Tell us about your department!

 

‘Prototype propulsion is responsible for designing a safe, efficient and lightweight system to store the liquid hydrogen onboard our 1:3 scale prototype aircraft. This includes a vacuum tank, heat exchanger, valves of all types, pipelines, a powerful fuel cell and of course, many fail-safe mechanisms. When working with hydrogen the number one rule is safety, this is why we work hard to ensure that all risks are mitigated and all possible scenarios are analyzed, especially those outside of the normal operations. Our department is made up of 4 people: Pim, Daan, Kian and me, Felice. Everyone works from home and being a relatively small team we often work on multiple things in parallel. A big part of our time is spent making 3D models of the components and assemblies, running thermodynamic simulations, certifying the system and organizing tests.’

 

What do you like most about your department?

 

‘One of the key factors that make our department work so well is how proactive everyone is. Most times there is not even a need to discuss tasks division as everyone is happy to contribute to the successful outcome of the project. Good communication is key for this, we always ask for each other’s confirmation, discuss doubts and problems and basically tackle every challenge with four brains instead of one. That’s where our strength lies.’

 

What have been the biggest obstacles that your department has faced so far?

 

‘Working on such innovative technology means that often there are no prior projects to take data and inspiration from, as well as a lack of components that are certified for use at the extremely low temperatures of liquid hydrogen. The way we fixed these problems so far is by carefully checking each other’s work, iterating our system numerous times, digging deep into the knowledge gathered by the space industry (one of the handful of places where similar challenges are faced), and by asking regularly for feedback from more experienced engineers. Another great challenge we face currently are the delays due to the required certification and tests to be performed. For different reasons both have been taking longer than expected, but we decided that the best we could do was organize ourselves and ensure our time wouldn’t go to waste by starting to work on other tasks.’

 

What are you as a department most looking forward to?

 

‘Our primary objective is of course the first liquid hydrogen flight. The milestones we are most excited about are: the final assembly of the liquid hydrogen system, the first flight on gaseous hydrogen and especially the first cryogenic test of our system, where we will get our chance to validate the performance of our system. This will give feedback about design choices we have made in an early stage, confirming that all of our work was not for nothing. If successful, we’ll be a lot closer to our end goal.’

 

Regarding your department, what are you most proud of?

 

‘One of the moments where we felt most proud was the first time one of our technical partners reviewed our liquid hydrogen system and said they were really impressed by the job done. Until that point we had worked for several months feeling a bit in the “dark” as we didn’t have any good indication whether our design was going the right way or not. It was truly a moment where we believed this challenge is achievable.’

 

That’s it for Prototype Propulsion. They will be working hard to end the year strong. Make sure to follow our social media channels to be notified when another department will be introduced. Additionally, our newsletter includes insight of how our different departments tackle the problems they face. Enjoy the Christmas holidays and a healthy and happy 2021!

 

From left to right: Pim, Felice, Kian and Daan. This photo has been taken in september, when the COVID-19 situation still allowed us to work together in our offices. Prevention measures, such as 1.5 m distance and the use of hand sanitizer were in place.