Ars Technica reports on a May 24 phys.org press release/precis on a University of Glasgow paper in Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets about a solid rocket intended to consume itself during use rather than require staging to improve its mass fraction (hence "autophage").

The paper, which I apparently have access to at work but not from home, mentioned that there were previous efforts toward the same goal, but it's not currently clear to me how those went. This one currently seems to require a separate nozzle and has some tendency to explode.

What other autophage rockets have been built, and what stage of development did those reach?

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    $\begingroup$ I imagine that autophage rockets aren't attractive to develop, because solid rocket applications tend to emphasize cost efficiency more than mass efficiency, and developing and producing an autophage has to be more expensive than a traditional solid stage. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ Very cool!! Would you consider adding some of this as an answer to Burn 1st stage structural material as fuel? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


The patents cited by that paper (1, 2, 3, 4) show no evidence of construction and testing. But a laboratory-scale model was tested in 2015, says this paper (paywalled except for the first page).

The J.S.R. paper's set of test firings was even covered by The Economist. The propellant was half a meter long and burned for a few minutes, with a chamber pressure of about 500 kPa, just a few per cent of the chamber pressure of SpaceX's Raptor engine. Because these tests ended "due to fuel starvation or, sometimes, another failure mechanism," one might say that this state of the art is still at the Jebediah Kerman stage.

In a 2020 Oct 5 press release the Glaswegians announced that they will attempt liquid propellant in 2021.

The Defence & Security Accelerator (DASA), part of the Ministry of Defence, has pledged £90,000 for further development of the autophage engine, which is being built at the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering. ...
Autophage engines have already been test-fired by the Glasgow team using all-solid propellant. The new funding will underwrite the research required to use a more energetic hybrid propellant: a solid tube of fuel containing a liquid oxidiser. The engine will be test-fired at Kingston University in London’s new rocket laboratory in London next year.

In a 2024 Jan 8 AIAA conference presentation the Glaswegians reported successful bench-test firings of a 100 N rocket whose polymer fuselage melts and is injected into the combustion chamber. They next expect to make it fly. It'll be tricky to handle the rocket's continuously changing size, though.

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    $\begingroup$ There's a wealth of information in those references! Some more of it should probably end up in the answer here, but thanks for the attention to a year-old question $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ liquid propellant, not liquid fuel $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 9:54
  • $\begingroup$ lol thanks again for the edit to the question. Wild that that typo sat there for five years $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe because we've gotten used to so many new predatory journals with fridge-poetry titles :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ That video's amazing $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Commented Jan 11 at 0:17

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