Hand in hand

Interview with Eric Brunner and Emilien Mingard: The Griffon engine demonstrator ready to spread its wings 12-17-2020 |  8 minutes


ArianeGroup incubates many student projects, one of which is a partnership with French aerospace engineering institute ISAE-SUPAERO to fly a particularly innovative engine demonstrator.


Eric Brunner and Emilien Mingard are both studying for a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering at ISAE-SUPAERO and are members of the SCube student club.

Can you summarize the Griffon project for us?

Eric Brunner: The Griffon rocket engine concept began at ISAE-SUPAERO in 2018. Griffon is designed for a two-meter single-stage experimental rocket developed by SCube, our student club at ISAE-SUPAERO. Today, Griffon is ready for testing. We have fully integrated the engine and are waiting for a slot to carry out the test.

Can you tell us a bit more about the engine?

Eric Brunner: Griffon is a hybrid/solid fuel demonstrator. It’s original because it is fuelled by ABS plastic which is commonly used in 3D printers. The plastic is burnt in the combustion chamber with highly concentrated liquid nitrogen peroxide as oxidizer.

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    From left to right: Axel Brulavoine (current project leader), Arthur Ammeux, Emilien Mingard, Jakob Hog, Maxime Eckstein, Pascal Caubet (ArianeGroup), Eric Brunner, Jouke Hijlkema (ONERA), technician (ONERA), Timothy Sanoner, technician (ONERA)

    How would you describe the ISAE-SUPAERO Supaero Space Section club? (Eric Brunner)

    Eric Brunner: The Supaero Space Section, or SCube, is a student organization at ISAE-SUPAERO. We are not just crazy about rockets, but are also keen to tackle a complex technical challenge and put the engineering theories we learn into practice. The club supports projects like Griffon, by providing facilities, contacts, and funding.

    What qualities would a student need to join a project like Griffon?

    Emilien Mingard: Working on Griffon calls for more in-depth understanding than we are taught in our courses – that gives us a good basis but we to take it further and build our own tools. The ideal Griffon student wants to learn more and challenge themselves, and they need to be willing to commit lots of time to the project.

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      Emilien in the ISAE-SUPAERO mechanics workshop making engine parts

      You had planned to test the engine demonstrator last April, but this had to be postponed. Do you know when the test will be carried out? What are the teams doing in the meantime?

      Emilien Mingard: Due to COVID-19, some students had to leave France early March. The students who have now resumed the project are finishing preparing the engine and hope to test it by the end of the year.

      What are the next steps in the project?

      Eric Brunner: The first step will be to fire the Griffon demonstrator several times. The students will learn a lot from this unique experience and be able to use their knowledge to integrate Griffon into a small experimental launch vehicle called AEther. After that, there will still be plenty of challenges, like finding a launch site and operating the launcher, but that’s why the project is so exciting!

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        Propellant trials in an ONERA combustion chamber

        What advice would you give other aspiring aerospace students?

        Emilien Mingard: Go for it! If you’re a space enthusiast, nothing beats making something yourself. Space is a unique field of engineering with very long timelines, and bringing something of your own is not easy. To find a job in this highly competitive sector, if you can demonstrate hands-on project experience when applying to company, that’s a real asset.

        What are the most important things you have learned from this project for your future career?

        Emilien Mingard: We built this engine completely by ourselves. Thanks to this experience, we have gained knowledge and expertise in a whole bunch of areas: fund-raising (negotiation), business partnerships (cooperation and ability to listen), project reviews with experts and professionals (ability to synthesize and be persuasive), scientific and technical research, design, analysis, manufacturing and testing, etc. Everything the perfect engineer needs!

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          Emilien (left) and Eric (right) with Julien (centre), a friend who helped them produce the combustion chamber and tank