Napier Rocket Engines

The Napier Flight Development Establishment in Luton was involved in a series of 20 rocket engine designs mainly as a sub-contractor to the English Electric parent company.  After WW2 the British Air Ministry had issued specifications for a series of rocket engines using solid and liquid fuels.  Napier Luton submitted designs for a liquid fuelled rocket engine using catalysed hydrogen peroxide in the form of High Test Peroxide (HTP) as the oxidiser and kerosene as the fuel.  Several were built and tested; they were referred to as LTV  or “Luton Test Vehicles”.

The NRE (Napier rocket engine) series varied in power and size, and were designed for missiles and aircraft use.  The English Electric Thunderbird was a surface-to-air missile produced by English Electric for the British Army for high altitude targets with a  range of around 30 miles.  This project involved contributions from different companies and the English Electric development was referred to as Red Shoes / later Thunderbird. The sustainer motors were originally intended to be liquid fuel rocket engines and several different designs were tested.  However the use of liquid fuel was abandoned in favour of solid fuel rockets due to the difficulty of handling the highly reactive liquid fuel in the field.

The use of liquid fuel rocket engines was further developed by Napier Luton in the late 1950’s as the Napier Scorpion design to act as boosters to enhance aircraft take-off performance.  These were flown in English Electric Canberra aircraft but also proposed for fitting in the aircraft including the English Electric Lightning.

Napier Rocket Motor Solent Sky Museum
Napier Rocket Engine cutaway Img. C1002
Exhibition display showing parts of Mark I thermal ignition rocket motor 1.2.53 Img. 11966
Napier LTV rocket motor detail Luton Img. 4016

Examples of the various Napier rocket engine designs are listed below.

NRE 1    1951  Mono-propellant rocket with a thermite-igniter using ammonium nitrate fuel to produce 1,000 lb. thrust.

 High Test Peroxide (HTP) and kerosene bi-propellent thermal ignition rocket engine

NRE 4   Sept. 1952  Flight development   for guided missiles to produce 2,400 lb. thrust @5,000′.
NRE 5   Nov. 1952   For assisted take-off producing 8,000 lb. thrust @ sea level.
NRE 6   June 1953   Preliminary design for aircraft producing 9,500 lb. thrust @ sea level.
NRE 7   June 1953   Preliminary design for aircraft producing 2,500 lb. thrust @42,000′.
NRE 8   June 1953   Preliminary design for aircraft producing 4,000 and 2,000 lb. thrust @ 40,000′.
NRE 9   Oct. 1953   Preliminary design Twin chamber producing variable 10,000 – 1,500 lb. thrust @ 40,000′.
NRE 10  Nov. 1953  Flight development for guided missiles producing 2,400 lb. thrust @ 5,000′.
NRE 11            1954  ‘Red Shoes’ ground -to-air missile sustainer rocket engine producing 3,000 lb. thrust.
NRE 14                       Single Scorpion producing 2,250 lb. thrust. Development of NRE 11
NRE 15   Mar. 1954  Twin chamber Double Scorpion for aircraft producing 4,500 lb. thrust @ 40,000′.
NRE 16   July 1954   Pre-production  for guided missiles producing 2,400 lb. thrust @ 5,000′.
NRE 17   July 1954   Sustainer rocket engine for ‘Thunderbird’ ground to air missiles producing 2,400 lb. thrust @ 5,000′.

NRE 19   1954   Small tip jet rocket engine as used in the Skeeter.

NRE 20  Nov. 1954  HTP and kerosene bi-propellant thermal ignition rocket engine for aircraft 5,000 lb. thrust @ 40,000′.

Two NRE.11 engines are on display at the Newark Air Museum and a cut-away example of NRE2 or 3 can be seen at the Solent Sky museum in Southampton.

The Trust has a large collection of images relating to Luton FTDE and rockets.  Please CONTACT US if you have further interest.

Sir Archibald Hope viewing rocket engine on Ramjet R.J.T.V.25 23.8.56 Img. 24005
Saunders Roe Skeeter NRE.19 engine 26.4.57 Img. 26436
Skeeter tip jet Img. C1005
Napier Scorpion
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