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Appendix E


Rocketry encompasses a wide range of topics, each of which takes many years of study
to master. This chapter provides an initial foundation toward the study of rocket theory
by addressing the physical laws governing motion/propulsion, rocket performance
parameters, rocket propulsion techniques, reaction masses (propellants), chemical rockets
and advanced propulsion techniques.

PROPULSION BACKGROUND matter, which depends on both how much

and how fast propellants are used (mass
Rockets are like other forms of flow rate) and the propellant’s speed
propulsion in that they expend energy to when it leaves the rocket (effective
produce a thrust force via an exchange of exhaust velocity).
momentum with some reaction mass in Like other forms of transportation,
accordance with Newton’s Third Law of rockets consist of the same basic elements
Motion. But rockets differ from all other such as a structure providing the vehicle
forms of propulsion since they carry the framework, propulsion system providing
reaction mass with them (self contained) the force for motion, energy source for
and are, therefore, independent of their powering the vehicle systems, guidance
surrounding environment. system for direction control
Other forms of and last and most important
propulsion depend on their (indeed the reason for
environment to provide the having the vehicle at all), the
reaction mass. Cars use payload. Examples of
the ground, airplanes use payloads are passengers,
the air, boats use the water scientific instruments or
and sailboats use the wind. supplies. When a rocket is
The rockets we are most used as a weapon for
familiar with are chemical destructive purposes, we call
rockets in which the it a missile; its payload is a
propellants (reaction mass) warhead.
are the fuel and oxidizer.
With chemical rockets, the ROCKET PHYSICS
Fig. 5-1. Sir Isaac Newton
propellants are also the
energy source. A conventional chemical Sir Isaac Newton (Fig. 5-1) set forth
rocket is a type of internal combustion the basic laws of motion; the means by
engine burning fuel and oxidizer in a which we analyze the rocket principle.
combustion chamber producing hot, high Newton’s three laws of motion apply to
pressure gases and accelerating them all rocket-propelled vehicles. They apply
through a nozzle. In electric and nuclear to gas jets used for attitude control, small
rockets, the propellant is essentially an rockets used for stage separations or for
inert mass. trajectory corrections and to large rockets
According to Newton’s Second Law,
the thrust force is equal to the rate of
change of momentum of the ejected

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

used to launch a vehicle from the surface gravity is acting opposite to the direction
of the Earth. They apply to nuclear, of the thrust of the engine.
electric and other advanced types of As the rocket operates, the forces
rockets as well as to chemical rockets. acting on it change. The force of gravity
Newton’s laws of motion are stated decreases as the vehicle’s mass decreases,
briefly as follows: and it also decreases with altitude. As the
rocket passes through the atmosphere,
Newton’s 1st Law drag increases with increasing velocity
(Inertia) and decreases with altitude (lower
atmospheric density).1 As long as the
Every body continues in a state of thrust remains constant, the acceleration
uniform motion in a straight line, profile changes with the changing forces
unless it is compelled to change that on the vehicle. The predominate effect is
state by a force imposed upon it. that the acceleration increases at an
increasing rate as the vehicle’s mass
Newton’s 2nd Law decreases.2
(Momentum) Figure 5-2 shows the general
When a force is applied to a body, acceleration and velocity profiles during
the time rate of change of powered flight. The acceleration and
momentum is proportional to, and velocity are low at launch due to the small
in the direction of, the applied net force and high vehicle mass at that
force. time. Both acceleration and velocity

Newton’s 3rd Law

For every action there is a reaction
that is equal in magnitude but
opposite in direction to the action.

In relating these laws to rocket theory

and propulsion, we can paraphrase and
simplify them. For example, the first law
says, in effect, that the engines must
develop enough thrust force to overcome
the force of gravitational attraction
between the Earth and the launch vehicle.
The engines must be able to start the Fig. 5-2. Acceleration and Velocity
vehicle moving and accelerate it to the
desired velocity. Another way of
expressing this for a vertical launch is to increase rapidly as the engine burns
say that the engines must develop more propellants (reducing vehicle mass and
pounds of thrust than the vehicle weighs. increasing the net force).
When applying the second law, we At first stage burnout, the acceleration
must consider the summation of all the drops (the acceleration at this point is due
forces acting on the body; the to the environment: gravity and drag) and
accelerating force is the net force acting is generally opposite the direction of
on the vehicle. This means if we launch a
200,000-lbf vehicle vertically from the 1
The term “Max Q” refers to the highest struc-
Earth with a 250,000-lbf thrust engine, tural pressure due to atmospheric drag.
there is a net force at launch of 50,000- 2
As the net force on the vehicle increases and the
lbfthe difference between engine thrust mass decreases, the acceleration increases at an
and vehicle weight. Here the force of increasing rate.

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

motion. With second stage ignition, It is his Third Law of Motion that
acceleration and velocity will increase explains the working principle of all
again. As the upper stage rocket propulsion systems.
engine(s) burn more propellants, rapid A rocket engine is basically a device
increases in acceleration and velocity for expelling small particles of matter at
occur. When the vehicle reaches the high speeds producing thrust through the
correct velocity (speed and direction) and exchange of momentum. When liquid or
altitude for the mission, it terminates solid chemicals are used as propellants,
thrust. Acceleration drops as the net the exhaust consists of gas molecules.
force on the vehicle is due to the Recent scientific advances have involved
environment, mainly gravity, after thrust experimental and theoretical work on
termination, or burnout, and the vehicle rocket engines using ions (charged atomic
begins free flight. For vehicles with three, particles), nuclear particles and even
four or more stages, similar changes beams of light (photons) as “propellants.”
appear in both the acceleration and Two items are necessary for
velocity each time staging occurs. propulsion: matter and energy. Matter is
Staging a vehicle increases the velocity in the reaction mass and is the source of
steps to the high values required for space momentum exchange. The reaction mass
missions. begins with the same momentum as the
Once a vehicle is in orbit, we say it is in rocket vehicle, but as the rocket expels
a “weightless” condition. In fact, the this mass, the rocket and all remaining
vehicle is continually in free-fall, always propellants receive an equal increase in
accelerating toward the center of the momentum in the opposite direction.
Earth. The acceleration still depends on It takes energy to accelerate the
the summation of the forces acting on the reaction mass (impart momentum). The
vehicle (or the net force). faster propellants are accelerated, the
In a free-fall condition, we don’t have more propulsive force achieved; however,
to continually counter act the force of it also takes more energy.
gravity, the vehicle’s momentum
accomplishes this task.3 In this ROCKET PERFORMANCE
“weightless” condition, even a very small
thrust (0.1 pound) operating over a long There are several rocket performance
period of time can accelerate a vehicle to parameters that, when taken together,
great speeds, escape velocity and more describe a rocket’s overall performance:
for interplanetary missions. 1) Thrust, 2) Specific Impulse, and 3)
To relate Newton’s third law, or Mass Ratio.
“action-reaction law” to rocket theory
and propulsion, consider what happens in Thrust (T)
the rocket motor. All rockets develop
thrust by expelling particles (mass) at high The thrust is the amount of force an
velocity from their nozzles. The effect of engine produces on the rocket (and on the
the ejected exhaust appears as a reaction exhaust stream leaving the rocket,
force, called thrust, acting in a direction conservation of momentum). The amount
opposite to the direction of the exhaust. of thrust, along with the rocket mass,
The rocket is exchanging momentum with determines the acceleration. The mission
the exhaust. profile will determine the required and
acceptable accelerations and thus, the
required thrust. Launching from the
Earth typically requires a thrust to weight
ratio of at least 1.5 to 1.75. Once the
When the vehicle’s orbit doesn’t intersect the vehicle is in orbit and the vehicle’s
Earth’s surface, we say the gravitational force is momentum balances the gravitational
balanced by the inertial force.

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

force, smaller thrust forces are usually The more propellant the vehicle can
sufficient for any maneuvering. carry with respect to its “dry” weight, or
weight without propellant aboard, the
Specific Impulse (Isp ) faster it will be able to go. Mass ratio is
an expression relating the propellant mass
Specific impulse is a measure of to vehicle mass; the higher the mass ratio,
propellant efficiency, and numerically is the higher the final speed of the rocket.
the thrust produced divided by the weight Therefore, a rocket vehicle is made to
of propellant consumed per second weigh as little as possible in its “dry”
(ending up with units of seconds). state. Increasing the weight of the vehicle
So, Isp is really another measure of a payload results in decreasing the mass
rocket’s exhaust velocity. Specific ratio, and therefore cutting down the
impulse is the common measure of maximum altitude or range. For example,
propellant and propulsion system the addition of one pound of payload to a
performance, and is somewhat analogous high-altitude sounding rocket may reduce
to the reciprocal of the specific fuel its peak altitude by as much as 10,000
consumption used with conventional feet.
automobile or aircraft engines. The larger
the value of specific impulse, the better a PROPULSION TECHNIQUES
rocket’s performance.
We can improve specific impulse by From our previous discussion of rocket
imparting more energy to the propellants performance parameters, we see that we
(increasing the exhaust velocity), which would like to be as efficient as possible in
means that more thrust will be obtained developing thrust. To develop thrust, we
for each pound of propellant consumed. have to exchange momentum with some
We can think of specific impulse as the reaction mass (propellant). Any way that
number of seconds for which one pound we can do this is a valid propulsion
of propellant will produce one pound of option. We would like to choose the
thrust. Or, we can think of it as the option that decreased the overall mission
amount of thrust one pound of propellant cost while still providing for mission
will produce for one second. success.
We are most familiar with chemical
Mass Ratio (MR) rocket systems, however, there are other
ways we can produce rocket propulsion.
Since the rocket engine is continually The two main ways of accelerating a
consuming propellants, the rocket’s mass propellant to provide thrust are:
is decreasing with time. If the thrust thermodynamic expansion and electro-
remains constant, the vehicle’s static/ magnetic acceleration. The
acceleration increases reaching its highest methods for providing the thermal energy
value at engine cut-off; for example, the for thermodynamic expansion, or
space shuttle reaches 3 Gs just before electricity for electrostatic acceleration,
main engine cut-off. can come from chemical, nuclear, or solar
The purpose of a rocket is to place a sources.
payload at specified position with a
specific velocity. This position and Thermodynamic Expansion
velocity depends on the mission. We can
equate the energy needed to do this to the Thermodynamic expansion is the
change in velocity (or delta-v, ∆ v) the mechanism we are most familiar with. All
rocket imparts to the satellite. For a of our chemical systems use this method
rocket, the ideal ∆ v gain depends on the to accelerate the propellants. However,
Isp (exhaust velocity, ve ) and the mass we can also use nuclear or electrical
ratio. energy to heat the propellant.

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

In thermodynamic expansion, we heat going into the radial velocity is wasted.
the propellant to turn it into a high The contoured or bell-shaped nozzle
pressure, high temperature gas. We then provides for rapid early expansion
allow that gas to expand in a controlled producing shorter (less massive) nozzles,
way to turn the thermal potential energy and redirects the exhaust toward the axial
into directed kinetic energy, which direction near the nozzle exit. The plug
produces thrust. The basic device used to and expansion-deflection type nozzles are
create these large volumes of gas and to much shorter than a conventional conical
harness their heat energy is extremely nozzle with the same expansion ratio.
simple and often contains no moving These nozzles have a center body and
parts. an annular chamber. The plug changes
The rocket engine using the direction of the gas flow from the
thermodynamic expansion creates a throat during expansion from radial to an
pressure difference between the thrust axial direction. The expansion of exhaust
chamber (combustion chamber) and the gas is determined by ambient pressure. A
surrounding environment. It is this variation of the plug nozzle is the
pressure difference that accelerates the aerospike, which uses radial auxiliary
gases. combustion chambers around the exit to
A rocket engine usually operates at the main combustion chamber. The
what the gas dynamist calls supercritical exhaust plumes from the auxiliary
conditionshigh chamber pressure chambers expand to form a "nozzle" for
exhausting to low external pressure. The the gases escaping from the engine. Over
Swedish engineer Carl G.P. De Laval expansion and under expansion can be
showed that for supercritical conditions largely compensated for by increasing or
gases should be ducted through a nozzle decreasing the thrust of the auxiliary
that converges to a throat (section of chambers.
smallest area) and then diverges to
transform as much of the gases’ thermal Chemical Rockets
energy into kinetic energy.
Chemical rockets are unique in that the
Nozzles energy required to accelerate the
propellant comes from the propellant
There are a number of nozzle types; itself, and in this sense, are considered
Figure 5-3 depicts four of them. The energy limited. Thus, the attainable
conical nozzle is simple and easy to kinetic energy per unit mass of propellant
fabricate and provides adequate is limited primarily by the energy released
performance for most applications; in chemical reaction; the attainment of
however. it also has off axis exhaust high exhaust velocity requires the use of
velocity components which reduces the high-energy propellant combinations that
efficiency. The radial velocity produce low molecular weight exhaust
components cancel and don’t contribute products. Currently, propellants with the
to the overall thrust, therefore the energy best combinations of high energy content
and low molecular weight seem capable
of producing specific impulses in the
range of 400 to 500 seconds or exhaust
velocities of 13,000 to 14,500 ft/sec.
Chemical rockets may use liquid or
solid propellants or, in some schemes,
combinations of both. Liquid rockets
may use one (monopropellant), two
(bipropellant) or more propellants.
Bipropellants consist of a combination of

Fig. 5-3. Nozzle Types

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

a fuel (kerosene, alcohol, hydrogen) and
an oxidizer (oxygen, nitric acid, fluorine). The nuclear rocket is an attempt to
The liquids are held in tanks and fed into increase specific impulse by using nuclear
the combustion chamber where they react reaction to replace chemical reaction as
and then expand through the nozzle. the energy source. The nuclear reactor
In contrast, solid propellants are an generates thermal energy and heats the
intimate mixture containing all the propellant which is then expanded
material necessary for reaction. The through a conventional nozzle.
entire block of solid propellant, called the Compared to the chemical rocket, the
grain, is stored within the combustion nuclear rocket has some advantages. The
chamber. Combustion proceeds from the energy released in a nuclear reaction is
surface of the propellant. very much larger than that of a chemical
A chemical rocket engine is little more reaction (on the order of a million times
than a gas generator. The rapid larger), and since the energy source is
combination (combustion) of certain separate from the propellant, we have a
chemicals results in the release of energy larger latitude for propellant choice.
and large volumes of gaseous products. Thus, hydrogen would be a good
The gas molecules generated have propellant because it has the lowest
considerable energy in the form of heat. atomic weight, and would provide the
In ordinary chemical rocket engines, the highest exhaust velocities for a given
temperature of the resulting gases can rise chamber pressure and temperature.
higher than 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit. We might think that the abundant
For chemical systems in general, liquid energy in nuclear rockets would mean
propellants provide higher specific that we could employ indefinitely high
impulses than solid propellants. We call chamber temperatures. This is definitely
liquid Hydrogen (LH) and liquid Oxygen not the case, however, since the heat is
(LOX) high energy propellants because of transferred from a solid reactor to the
the large energy release during propellant. Thus the structural
combustion and the high transfer of components within the nuclear rocket,
thermal energy into directed kinetic unlike those in a chemical rocket, must be
energy of the exhaust stream. hotter than the propellant, and the
An efficient LH/LOX burning engine temperature cannot exceed the limiting
produces around Isp = 390-430 sec. on temperature of the structure or the
average.4 Solid propellant motors reactor material. The attainable
produce around Isp = 265-295 sec. temperatures in nuclear rockets to date
The total impulse of a rocket is the are considerably below the temperatures
product of thrust and the effective firing attained in some chemical rockets, but the
duration. A typical shoulder launched use of hydrogen as the propellant more
short-range rocket may have an average than offsets this temperature
thrust of 660 pounds for an effective disadvantage. Thus, as far as specific
duration of 0.2 seconds, giving a total impulse is concerned, the increased
impulse of 132 lbf-sec. In contrast, the performance of nuclear rockets is entirely
Saturn rocket had a total impulse of 1.14 due to the use of a propellant with a low
billion lbf-sec. atomic weight. The nuclear fission rocket
offers roughly twice the specific impulse
of the best chemical rocket (about 800-
Nuclear Rockets 1,000 seconds), while delivering fairly
high thrusts for long periods of time.
One theoretical improvement is a high-
The Isp of any particular engine depends upon its density reactor using fast neutrons. This
design altitude. The Space Shuttle Main Engines type of reactor is expected to produce
(SSME) produce Isp = 363.2 @ sea level, and higher performance levels in a smaller
455.2 @ vacuum.

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

package than the thermal (or slow) the chamber and the propellant is heated
reactors. Another improvement is a gas to high temperatures as it interacts with
core reactor in which the operating the arc. After the heating, the propellant
temperature could be much higher. This is expanded through a conventional
increase in temperature would occur nozzle (Fig. 5-5).
because of the elimination of the solid This type of propulsion takes
core of fuel elements used in slow and advantage of using hydrogen as a
fast reactors. These structural elements propellant, and, like nuclear rockets,
are temperature limited. experiences a similar performance gain in
NASA’s Lewis Research Center is
pursuing a concept for a reusable vehicle
propelled by a nuclear thermal rocket
(NTR) to take astronauts to the Moon
and back (Fig. 5-4). With the addition of
modular hardware elements, the lunar
transit vehicle would become the core of
a spacecraft to land astronauts on Mars
early in the 21st century.
Specific impulse has reached about 850
seconds in nuclear engines, while the best Fig. 5-5. Conventional Nozzle

specific impulse (up to 1,200 seconds).

Unlike nuclear rockets, arcjets are small,
producing little more than several pounds
of thrust.

Electrical Propulsion

Electrical and electromagnetic rockets

Fig. 5-4. Reusable Rocket
fundamentally differ from chemical
rockets with respect to their performance
liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen combustion limitations. Chemical rockets are energy-
engines only approach 475 seconds (in a limited, since the quantity of energy is
vacuum). Such a system could decrease limited by the chemical behavior of the
transit times to Mars from 9-15 months propellants. If a separate energy source is
down to 4-6 months, leaving more time used, much higher propellant energy is
for exploration. Of course nuclear rockets possible. Further, if the temperature
have drawbacks. Nuclear reactors are not limitations of solid walls could be made
only heavy, but while in operation, unimportant by direct electrostatic or
produce large amounts of radiation. The electromagnetic propellant acceleration
mass and radiation hazard prohibit its use without necessarily raising the fluid
as a launch vehicle. However, once in temperature, there would be no limit to
space the benefits on long range missions the kinetic energy we could add to the
would more than offset the extra mass. propellant. However, the rate of
conversion from nuclear or solar to
Electrothermal Rockets electrical energy and then to propellant
kinetic energy is limited by the mass of
Another method using thermodynamic the conversion equipment. Since this
expansion is the arcjet. The arcjet is an mass is likely to be a large portion of the
electrothermal rocket because it uses total mass of the vehicle, the electrical
electrical energy to heat a propellant. In rocket (including electrothermal/static/
this method, an annular arc is created in magnetic) is essentially power-limited.

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

Electrostatic/magnetic rockets convert that an ion rocket employing cesium
electrical energy directly to propellant propellant would require over 2,000 kW
kinetic energy without necessarily raising of electrical power per pound of thrust.
the temperature of the working fluid. For The propellant for ion engines may be
this reason the specific impulse is not any substance that ionizes easily. Unlike
limited by the temperature limitations of thermodynamic expansion, the size of the
the wall materials, and it is possible to molecules is not a primary factor. The
achieve very high exhaust velocities, most efficient elements are mercury,
although at the cost of high power cesium or the noble gases.
Because of the massive energy
conversion equipment, electrical rockets
have low thrust, perhaps only one-
thousandth of vehicle weight in the
Earth’s gravitational field. For this
reason, they are mainly restricted to space
missions during which the gravitational
forces are very nearly balanced by inertial
forces. Low accelerations are quite
acceptable, since the journeys are of long
The propellant of an electrical rocket Fig. 5-6. Ion Acceleration
consists of either discrete charged
particles accelerated by electrostatic Electromagnetic Rockets
forces, or a stream of electrically
conducting fluid (plasma) accelerated by There are three major types of
electromagnetic forces. electromagnetic rockets: magnetogas-
dynamic, pulsed-plasma and traveling-
Electrostatic Rockets wave. All methods use a plasma with
crossed electric and magnetic fields to
These are commonly called ion accelerate the plasma.
rockets. Neutral propellant is converted A plasma is an electrically conducting
to ions and electrons and withdrawn in gas. It consists of a collection of neutral
separate streams. The ions pass through a atoms, molecules, ions, and electrons.
strong electrostatic field produced The number of ions and the number of
between acceleration electrodes. The electrons are equal so that, on the whole,
ions accelerate to high speeds, and the the plasma is electrically neutral. Because
thrust of the rocket is in reaction to the of its ability to conduct electrons, the
ion acceleration (Fig. 5-6). plasma can be subjected to
It is also necessary to expel the electromagnetic forces in much the same
electrons in order to prevent the vehicle way as solid conductors in electric
from acquiring a net negative charge. motors.
Otherwise, ions would be attracted back
to the vehicle and the thrust would vanish. Magneto-gas-dynamic Drive.
They remove these excess electrons by re- Strong external electric and magnetic
injecting them back into the exhaust ion fields direct and accelerate the plasma
beam. stream, imparting high exhaust velocity.
Ion rockets offer very high specific The performance is limited due to non-
impulses (a typical figure being 10,000 perpendicular currents flowing in the
seconds with values ranging up to 20,000 plasma at high field strengths. The
seconds), but very low thrust, one-half specific impulse is lower than ion rockets
pound being high. It has been estimated but still very high (around 10,000

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

seconds). The mass flow rate is restricted The inward radial force on the plasma
so the thrusts remain low. in this accelerator appears to offer an
advantage in keeping the high
Pulsed-Plasma Accelerators. temperature plasma away from the solid
One of the disadvantages of the walls of the tube. The fact that no
steady crossed-field accelerators is that electrodes are needed is also an attractive
they require a substantial external field feature.
and therefore, a massive electromagnet.
It is possible to make an accelerator for STAGING
which an electromagnet is unnecessary by
using the plasma current itself to generate Currently, the only practical method
the magnetic field, which gives rise to the we have for launching satellites is with
accelerating force. Whereas the crossed- chemical systems. As we found out in the
field accelerator is analogous to a shunt rocket performance section, specific
motor (which has separate current circuits impulse and mass ratio limit our chemical
for the electric and magnetic fields), the systems’ performance.
analog of this type of accelerator is the What does this mean in terms of
series motor in which the magnetic field is satellites and space probes? A rocket has
established by the same current which to provide enough energy, essentially
interacts to establish the crossed field 25,000 ft/sec (17,500 mph), to orbit the
force. Earth as a satellite and 36,700 ft/sec
(25,000 mph) to escape the Earth’s
Traveling-Wave gravitational field and become a planetoid
A third type of plasma accelerator, circling the Sun.
sometimes called the magnetic-induction A body must attain a velocity of nearly
plasma motor, offers potential advantages 35,000 ft/sec to hit the Moon. No
over both the foregoing accelerators. It practical rocket of one stage can reach the
requires neither magnets or electrodes, critical velocities for satellites or space
and relies on currents being induced in the probes.
plasma by a traveling magnetic wave. A solution to this problem is to mount
If the current in a conductor one or more rockets on top of one
surrounding a tube containing a plasma another and to fire them in succession at
increases, the magnetic field strength in the moment the previous stage burns out.
the plane of the conductor will increase. For example, if each stage provides about
Then an electromotive force will be 9,000 ft/sec in velocity when fired as
induced in any loop in this plane. If the above, it would take three stages to put a
conductor current increases rapidly satellite in orbit, or four stages to reach
enough, the induced electric field will the moon or go beyond it into space as a
establish a substantial plasma current. deep space probe orbiting the sun.
The induced magnetic field and plasma Staging reduces the launch size and
current then interact to cause a body force weight of the vehicle required for a
normal to both, which tends to compress specific mission and aids in achieving the
the plasma toward the axis of the tube and high velocities necessary for specific
expel it axially. missions.
A traveling-wave accelerator makes Multistage rockets allow improved
use of a number of sequentially energized payload capability for vehicles with a high
external conductors along the tube. As ∆ v requirement, such as launch vehicles
the switches are fired in turn, the or interplanetary spacecraft. In a
magnetic field lines move axially along the multistage rocket, propellant is stored in
tube, interacting with induced currents smaller, separate tanks rather than a larger
and imparting axial motion to the plasma. single tank as in a single-stage rocket.
Since each tank is discarded when empty,

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

energy is not expended to accelerate the corrosiveness, availability and cost; size
empty tanks, thereby achieving a higher and structural weight of the vehicle; and
total ∆ v. Alternatively, a larger payload payload weight.
mass can be accelerated to the same total
∆ v. The separate tanks are usually Liquid Propellants
bundled with their own engines, with each
discardable unit called a stage. The term “liquid propellant” refers to
The same rocket equation describes any of the liquid working fluids used in a
multistage and single-stage rocket rocket engine. Normally, they are an
performance, but it must be applied on a oxidizer and a fuel, but may include
stage-by-stage basis. It is important to catalysts or additives that improve
realize that the payload mass for any stage burning or thrust. Generally, liquid
consists of the mass of all subsequent propellants permit longer burning time
stages plus the ultimate payload itself. than solid propellants. In some cases, they
The velocity of the multistage vehicle at permit intermittent operations. That is,
the end of powered flight is the sum of combustion can be stopped and started by
velocity increases produced by each of the controlling propellant flow.
various stages. We add the increases Many combinations of liquid
because the upper stages start with propellants have been investigated.
velocities imparted to them by the lower However, no combination has all these
stages. desirable characteristics:
A multistage vehicle with identical
specific impulse, payload fraction and • Large availability of raw materials
structure fraction for each stage is said to and ease of manufacture
have similar stages. For such a vehicle, • High heat of combustion per unit of
the payload fraction is maximized by propellant mixture
having each stage provide the same • Low freezing point (wide range of
velocity increment. For a multistage operation)
vehicle with dissimilar stages, the overall • High density before combustion
vehicle payload fraction depends on how (smaller tanks)
the ∆ v requirement is partitioned among • Low density after combustion
stages. Payload fractions will be reduced (higher γ)
if the ∆ v is partitioned suboptimally. • Low toxicity and corrosiveness
(easier handling and storage)
ROCKET PROPELLANTS • Low vapor pressure, good chemical
stability (simplified storage)
The type of rocket engine determines
the corresponding type of propellant Liquid-propellant units can be
storage and delivery systems. In the case classified as monopropellant, bipropellant
of chemical rocket engines, the or tripropellant in nature (Fig. 5-7). A
propellants may be either liquid or solid. monopropellant is a single liquid
Rocket engines can operate on possessing the qualities of both an
common fuels such as gasoline, alcohol, oxidizer and a fuel. It may be a single
kerosene, asphalt or synthetic rubber, plus chemical compound, such as
a suitable oxidizer. Engine designers nitromethane, or a mixture of several
consider fuel and oxidizer combinations chemical compounds, such as hydrogen
having the energy release and the physical peroxide and alcohol. The compounds
and handling properties needed for are stable at ordinary temperatures and
desired performance. Selecting pressures, but decompose when heated
propellants for a given mission requires a and pressurized, or when a catalyst starts
complete analysis of mission, propellant the reaction.
performance, density, storability, toxicity,

AU Space Reference Guide Second Edition, 8/99

5 - 10
unsymmetrical dimethyldrazine (UDMH)
at 146° F and hydrazine at 236° F.
However, the term storage refers to
storing propellants on Earth. It does not
consider the problem of storage in space.
As described earlier, in order to store
the liquid propellants within the rocket
vehicle until such time as they are
introduced into the combustion chamber
of the rocket engine, large tanks are
required. Once combustion starts and
pressure is built up inside the combustion
chamber, the propellants will not flow
into the combustion chamber of their own
accord. A method of forcing the
propellants into the combustion chamber
Fig. 5-7: Liquid Propellants against the combustion pressure is
required. Two methods presently used to
Monopropellant rockets are simple, accomplish this are shown in Figure 5-8.
since they only need one propellant tank The simplest of these provides a gas
and the associated equipment. The most pressure, usually helium, in the propellant
common monopropellant systems use tanks sufficient to force the propellants
hydrazine. Bipropellant units carry fuel out of the tanks through the delivery
and oxidizer in separate tanks and bring piping and into the combustion chamber.
them together in the combustion chamber. The pressurization method requires
At present, most liquid rockets use propellant tanks that are strong enough to
bipropellants. In addition to a fuel and withstand the pressure and this, in turn,
oxidizer, a liquid bipropellant may include means thick tank walls and increased
a catalyst to increase the speed of tankage weight. This decreases the mass
reaction, or other additives to improve the ratio. Therefore, there is a definite limit
physical, handling or storage properties.
A tripropellant has three compounds.
The third compound improves the specific
impulse of the basic propellant.
Liquid propellants are commonly
classified as either cryogenic or storable
propellants. A cryogenic propellant is
one that has a very low boiling point and
must be kept very cold. For example,
liquid oxygen boils at -297° F, liquid
fluorine at -306° F and liquid hydrogen at
-423° F. Personnel at the launch site load
these propellants into a rocket as near Fig. 5-8. Propellant Feed Types
launch time as possible to reduce losses
from vaporization and to minimize
problems caused by their low to the size of the rocket vehicle that can
temperatures. use the pressurization method.
A storable propellant is one that is The second method, as previously
liquid at normal temperatures and described, utilizes pumps to drain the
pressures and may be left in a rocket for propellants from the tanks and force them
days, months, or even years. For into the combustion chamber. This
example, nitrogen tetroxide boils at 70° F, requires a pump for each propellant as
well as some method of driving the

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pumps. These pumps are usually the hypergolic combinations are aniline and
centrifugal type. They are generally nitric acid, fluorine/hydrazine, fluorine
driven by a turbine mounted on the same and hydrogen, hydrazine/hydrogen
drive shaft. The turbine, in turn, is peroxide, and aniline and nitrogen
powered by a small gas generator that tetroxide.
may use the decomposition of high- Monopropellants are chemicals which
strength (highly concentrated) hydrogen decompose in the presence of a suitable
peroxide to produce steam. Other catalyst or at a suitable temperature
sources of turbine power may be the two releasing energy in the process.
rocket propellants, burned in a small Hydrogen peroxide (75 percent pure or
auxiliary combustion chamber, or a small better) is a common monopropellant used
solid-propellant grain burned to produce in many vehicles for small adjustment or
driving gas. A novel method involves vernier rockets. Such strong peroxide
bleeding some of the combustion gas mixtures, however, must be handled with
from the rocket engine back to the great care because they decompose with
turbine. This is a system which essentially explosive suddenness in the presence of
“bootstraps” itself into operation. Pump impurities. Other monopropellants are
delivery systems allow the use of nitro-methane (CH3NO2), ethylene oxide
extremely thin-walled propellant tanks, (C2H4O) and hydrazine (N2H4). Many of
which increases the possible mass ratio. these propellants are highly unstable,
With liquid propellants, the combustion many are highly toxic and some are both.
process starts when the propellants are Liquid propellant engines are extremely
injected into the rocket engine. The versatile, can be throttled, and can be
propellants are driven into the combustion used again by simply reprovisioning the
chamber through an “injector,” which propellant tanks. They provide high
often looks like an overgrown shower specific impulses, but are more complex
head. The injector serves to break up the and therefore, less reliable than a solid
propellants into atomized spray, thus motor.
promoting mixing and complete While it is possible to argue endlessly
combustion. Injectors are extremely over the merits of both types, it is safe to
difficult to design, as there are no say that both solid-propellant motors and
definitive mathematical equations that liquid-propellant engines will continue to
analyze their operation. Modern injectors be used in the future for specific
are built as a single unit that forms the applications where their respective
forward end of the combustion chamber. advantages outweigh their disadvantages.
They are perforated with hundreds of tiny
holes, the number, size, and angle of
which are critical.
Propellants may be chosen so that they
react spontaneously upon contact with
each other. Such propellants are known
as hypergolic and do not require a means
of ignition in order to get combustion
started. Ignition for non-hypergolic
propellants requires an igniter. Igniters
are usually pyrotechnic in nature,
although some engines have used spark
Typical non-hypergolic combinations
are alcohol/LOX, gasoline/LOX, liquid
hydrogen/LOX, alcohol and nitric acid,
and kerosene (RP-1)/LOX. Typical

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In addition, a grain may be designed to
Solid Propellants burn with increasing area and thrust
(progressive) or with decreasing area and
The solid-propellant motor (Fig. 5-9) thrust (regressive). Choice of grain style
is the oldest of all types and is by far the depends on the motor’s use.
simplest in construction. Since the There are many chemical combinations
propellants are in solid form, usually that make good solid propellants. Aside
from gunpowder and metal-powder
mixtures (such as zinc and sulfur) which
have erratic burning rates and poor
physical properties, there are two classes
of solid propellants which were originally
developed for rockets during and after
World War II and are in wide use today:
double-base (homogeneous) and
composite (heterogeneous) propellants.
Double-based propellants consist chiefly
Fig. 5-9. Solid Propellant Motor of a blend of nitrocellulose and
nitroglycerin with small quantities of salts,
mixed together, and since a solid- wax, coloring and organic compounds to
propellant charge undergoes combustion control burning rates and physical
only on its surface, there is no need to properties. The double-based propellants
inject it continuously into the combustion may be regarded as complex colloids with
chamber from storage tanks. Solid unstable molecular structure.
propellants are therefore, placed right in Homogeneous propellants have oxidizer
the combustion chamber itself. A solid and fuel in a single molecule. The blast
propellant rocket motor combines both from a small chemical igniter easily starts
the combustion chamber and the the rapid recombination of this structure
propellant storage facilities in one unit. A in the process of burning. Aging allows a
solid-propellant charge, or “grain,” is slower rearrangement of the molecules,
ignited and burns until it is exhausted, and thus often significantly changes the
changing the effective size and shape
during its operation.
Since a solid-propellant grain burns
only on its surface, the shape of the grain
may be designed to regulate the amount
of grain area undergoing combustion.
Since the thrust is dependent upon the
mass flow rate, which is in turn dependent
upon the amount of propellant being
consumed per second, the thrust output
of a solid-propellant rocket motor can be
determined in advance, or “programmed.”
A grain that burns with constant area
during the thrust period yields constant
thrust and is known as a restricted or
neutral-burning grain (It might, for Fig. 5-10. Grain Configurations
example, burn from the aft end to the
forward end in the manner of a cigarette) burning properties of the propellant.
(Fig. 5-10). Double-based propellants can be formed
efficiently in many shapes by either
casting or extrusion through dies.

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Composite propellants, as the name Propellant Tanks
implies, are mixtures of an oxidizer,
usually an inorganic salt such as The function of the propellant tanks is
ammonium perchlorate, in a hydrocarbon simply the storage of one or two
fuel matrix, such as an asphalt like propellants until needed in the combustion
material. The fuel contains small particles chamber. Depending upon the kind of
of oxidizer dispersed throughout. The propellants used, the tank may be nothing
fuel is called a binder because the oxidizer more than a low pressure envelope or it
has no mechanical strength. Usually in may be a pressure vessel for containing
crystalline form, finely ground oxidizer is high pressure propellants. In the case of
approximately 70 to 80 percent of the cryogenic propellants (described later),
total propellant weight. Composites are the tank has to be an exceptionally well
usually cast to shape. Current work with insulated structure to keep propellants
composites and double-based propellants from boiling away.
incorporates light metals (such as boron, As with all rocket parts, weight of the
aluminum, and lithium), which yield very propellant tanks is an important factor in
high energies. their design. Many liquid propellant tanks
Although less energetic than good are made out of very thin metal or are thin
liquid propellants (lower specific metal sheaths wrapped with high-strength
impulse), solids have the advantages of fibers. These tanks are stabilized by the
fast ignition (0.025 seconds is common) internal pressure of their contents, much
and good storability in the rocket. the same way balloon walls gain strength
Making them, however, is costly, from the gas inside. Very large tanks and
complex and dangerous. tanks that contain cryogenic propellants
require additional strengthening or layers.
An ideal solid propellant would possess Structural rings and ribs are used to
these characteristics: strengthen tank walls, giving the tanks the
• High release of chemical energy appearance of an aircraft frame. With
• Low molecular weight of cryogenic propellants, extensive insulation
combustion products is needed to keep the propellants in their
• High density before combustion liquefied form. Even with the best
• Readily manufactured from easily insulation, cryogenic propellants are
obtainable substances by simple difficult to keep for long periods of time
processes and will boil away. For this reason,
• Insensitive to shock and cryogenic propellants are usually not used
temperature changes and no with military rockets/ missiles.
chemical or physical deterioration The propellant tanks of the shuttle can
while in storage be used as an example of the complexities
• Safe and easy to handle. involved in propellant tank design. The
• Ability to ignite and burn uniformly external tank (ET) consists of two smaller
over a wide range of operating tanks and an intertank. The ET is the
temperatures structural back bone of the shuttle and
• Nonhygroscopic (nonabsorbent of during launch it must bear the entire
moisture) thrust produced by the solid rocket
• Smokeless and flashless boosters and the Orbiter main engine.
The forward or nose tank contains
It is improbable that any propellant will LOX. Antislosh and antivortex baffles
have all of these characteristics. are installed inside the LOX tank as well
Propellants used today possess some of as inside the other tank to prevent gas
these features at the expense of others, bubbles inside the tank from being
depending upon the application and the pumped to the engines along with the
desired performance.

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5 - 14
propellants. Many rings and ribs
strengthen this tank. HYBRID ROCKETS
The second tank contains LH. This
tank is two and a half times the size of the Another rocket engine should be
LOX tank. However, the LH tank weighs mentioned. Composite (hybrid) engines
only one third as much as the LOX tank are combinations of solid and liquid
because LOX is 16 times denser than LH. propellant engines. In a composite
Between the two tanks is an intertank engine, the fuel may be in solid form
structure. The intertank is not actually a inside the combustion chamber with the
tank but a mechanical connection between oxidizer in a liquid form that is injected
the LOX and LH tanks. Its primary into the chamber.
function is to join the two tanks together Though not in widespread use, they do
and distribute thrust loads from the solid offer some advantages in rocket
rocket boosters. The intertank also propulsion. Figure 5-11 depicts a
houses a variety of instruments. simplified structure of the hybrid system.
Theoretical work on hybrid propulsion

Turbopumps provide the required flow

of propellants from the low-pressure
propellant tanks to the high-pressure
rocket chamber. Power for the pumps is
produced by combusting a fraction of the
propellants in a preburner. Expanding
gases from the burning propellants drive
one or more turbines which, in turn, drive
the turbopumps. After passing through
Fig. 5-11. Hybrid Rocket System
the turbines, exhaust gases are either
directed out of the rocket through a dates back to the 1930s in both the U.S.
nozzle or are injected, along with liquid and Germany. In the 1940s, a hybrid
oxygen into the chamber for more motor was built that burned Douglas Fir
complete burning. wood loaded with carbon black and wax
in 10% liquid oxygen. Germany’s
Combustion Chamber and Nozzle wartime experiments tried powdered and
re-formed coal fuel cores, but even clean
The combustion chamber of a liquid coal contained too many impurities to be
propellant rocket is a bottle-shaped a good rocket fuel. Work continued into
container with openings at opposite ends. the 1960s with both the Navy and Air
The openings at the top inject the Force funding research.
propellants into the chamber. Each The hybrid fuel burns only on contact
opening consists of a small nozzle that with the oxidizer, and cracks in the fuel
injects either fuel or oxidizer. The main grain do not admit enough oxidizer to
purpose of the injectors is to mix the support catastrophic failures common to
propellants to ensure smooth and complete solids. Also, unlike conventional solids,
combustion with no detonations. the flow of oxidizer makes the hybrid
Combustion chamber injectors come in throttleable and restartable. Even though
many designs. hybrids cannot match the density-impulse
The purpose of the nozzle is to provide of solid rocket motors loaded with
for gas expansion to achieve the aluminum, motors with thrusts ranging
maximum transfer of thermal energy into from 60,000 to 75,000 pounds have been
directed kinetic energy. tested. Future tests expect thrusts
reaching 225,000 pounds.

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5 - 15
Safety is an inherent advantage, claim enough to absorb a lot of heat. Cooling
makers of hybrid systems. As noted occurs by heat loss through radiation into
above, cracks in the fuel, because they are the exhaust plume. Radiation cooling can
not exposed to the oxidizer, do not cause set an upper limit on the temperature
an explosion. Hybrid propulsion makes attained by the walls of the thrust
launch vehicles safer in flight. Engine chamber. The rate of heat loss varies
thrust can be verified on the pad before with the fourth power of the absolute
releasing the vehicle for flight. And, temperature and becomes more significant
unlike solids, hybrids can be shut down on as the temperature rises.
the pad if something goes wrong.
Environmental concerns are lessened Ceramic Linings
using hybrid systems specially designed to
minimize pollution effects. The hydrogen In relatively small (low temperature)
chloride in solid fuel exhaust has already rockets, the interior walls of the
become an environmental concern for the combustion chamber and nozzle may be
acid it dumps on the surface of the Earth, lined with a heat-resistant (refractory)
and the damage it does to the protective ceramic material. The ceramic gets hot,
ozone. Aluminum oxide, an exhaust but because it is a poor conductor of heat,
component of traditional solid rockets, is it prevents the metal walls of the
also environmentally suspect. A hybrid motor/engine from becoming overheated
launch vehicle using polybutadiene fuel during the short operating period. This
and liquid oxygen produces an exhaust of method is not adequate for large rockets
carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and in which the more intense heat must be
water vapor similar to that of transferred rapidly from the walls of the
kerosene/liquid oxygen engines. thrust chamber. Ceramic linings are also
too heavy for use in large rockets.
Ablation Cooling
The very high temperatures generated
in the combustion chamber transfer a As mentioned earlier, in the ablation
great deal of heat energy to the cooling method, the interior of the thrust
combustion chamber and nozzle walls. chamber is lined with an ablative material,
This heat, if not dissipated, will cause usually some form of fabric reinforced
most materials to lose strength. Without plastic. This material chars, melts and
cooling the chamber and nozzle walls, the vaporizes in the intense heat of the
combustion chamber pressures will cause nozzle. In this type of “heat sink cooling,”
structural failure. There are many the heat absorbed in the melting and
methods of cooling, all with the objective burning (the energy alters the chemical
of removing heat from the highly stressed form instead of raising its temperature) of
combustion chamber and nozzle. the ablative material prevents the
temperature from becoming excessively
Radiation Cooling high. The charred material also serves as
an insulator and protects the rocket case
This is probably the simplest method of from overheating. The gas produced by
cooling a rocket engine or motor. The burning the ablative material provides an
method is usually used for area of “cooler” gas next to the nozzle
monopropellant thrusters, gas generators, walls. The synthetic organic plastic
and lower nozzle sections. The interior of binder material is reinforced with glass
the combustion chamber is covered with a fiber or a synthetic substance. Solid
refractory material (graphite, rocket motors use ablative cooling
pyrographite, tungsten, tantalum or almost exclusively, as there are no other
molybdenum) or is simply made thick fluids to use to cool the nozzle throat.

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5 - 16
of the propellant rises, causing it to
vaporize faster upon injection. This
Film Cooling cooling method is often used with gas
generator systems as a way to drive
With this method of cooling, liquid turbopumps (Fig. 5-12).
propellant is forced through small holes at
the periphery of the injector forming a
film of liquid on the interior surface of the Solid Rocket Motor Cooling
combustion chamber. The film has a low
thermal (or heat) conductivity since it In solid propellant motors, the nozzle
readily vaporizes and protects the wall
material from the hot combustion gases.
Cooling results from the vaporization of
the liquid which absorbs considerable
heat. Film cooling is especially useful in
regions where the walls become
exceptionally hot, e.g., the nozzle throat

Transpirational Cooling

This technique is very similar to film

cooling. The combustion chamber has a
double-walled construction in which the Fig. 5-12. Regenerative Cooling
inside wall is made of a porous material.
Propellant is circulated through the space serves the same purpose as in the liquid
between the walls and seeps continuously engine. Because there is no super-cooled
through inner wall pores into the propellant available to provide cooling,
combustion chamber. There it forms a we use other methods for thermal
film which rapidly vaporizes. The cooling protection. If not properly constructed,
action is much the same as film cooling, the walls of the combustion chamber will
but has the additional advantage of become excessively hot. This could cause
allowing considerable heat to be absorbed case failure under the high operating
by the propellant within the walls of the pressures existing in the interior. To
chamber. This method is also referred to prevent this, the inner wall of the motor
as evaporative or sweat cooling. Major case is coated with a liner or inhibitor.
drawbacks to transpirational cooling are This liner provides a bond between the
that it is difficult to manufacture this type propellant grain and the case preventing
of chamber, and also difficult to maintain combustion from spreading along the
a steady liquid flow through the pores. walls, and acts as a thermal insulator,
protecting the case from heat in areas
Regenerative Cooling where there is no propellant. The
unburned propellant provides additional
This is the most common method of thermal protection as it must be vaporized
cooling for cryogenic propellant rockets. before it will burn.
It involves circulating one of the super- In solid-propellant rockets, the
cooled propellants through a cooling nozzle’s form is often achieved with a
jacket around the combustion chamber shaped insert which keeps the nozzle
and nozzle before it enters the injector. throat cool to prevent significant damage
The propellant removes heat from the during the operation of the motor.
walls, keeping temperatures at acceptable Common insert materials include both
levels. At the same time, the temperature refractory substances, like pyrographite

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5 - 17
and tungsten or ablative substances. The for small deflection angles. This method
ablative materials are fabric reinforced is relatively common (Fig. 5-13).
high temperature plastics as previously
discussed. There is usually no significant
change in motor performance due to
deterioration of nozzle throat ablatives.
Another method of keeping the nozzle
throat cool is the use of a cooler burning
propellant located near the throat area
which will burn and form a thin layer of
cooler gas next to the nozzle walls. This
thin film of gas protects the nozzle from
the high temperature gas created by the
main propellant. Fig. 5-13. Gimbaled Engine
Vernier Rockets
Vernier rockets are small auxiliary
In a rocket, the rocket engine or motor rocket engines. These engines can
not only provides the propulsive force but provide all attitude control, or just roll
also the means of controlling its flight control for single engine stages during the
path by redirecting the thrust vector to main engine burn, and a means of
provide directional control for the controlling the rocket after the main
vehicle’s flight path. This is known as engine has shut off (Fig. 5-14).
thrust vector control (TVC). TVC can be
divided into those systems for use with
liquid engines and those for solid motors.
When choosing a TVC method, we
need to consider the characteristics of the
engine/motor and its flight application and
duration. Also, the maximum angular
accelerations required or acceptable, the
environment, the number of
engines/motors on the rocket, available
actuating power, and the weight and
space limitations are all weighed against
Fig. 5-14. Vernier Rocket
each other to produce a cost effective, yet
appropriate, system of control. The Jet Vanes
effective loss of engine performance due Jet vanes are small airfoils located in
to the use of a particular TVC method the exhaust flow behind the nozzle exit
and the maximum thrust vector deflection plane. They act like ailerons or elevators
required are major design considerations on an aircraft and cause the
vehicle to change direction by
Liquid Rocket TVC Methods redirecting the rocket. Jet vanes
are made of heat-resistant
Gimbaled Engines materials like carbon-carbon and
other refractory substances.
Some liquid propellant rockets use an Unfortunately, this control
engine swivel or gimbal arrangement to system causes a two to three
point the entire engine assembly. This percent loss of thrust, and
arrangement requires flexible propellant erosion of the vanes is also a
lines, but produces negligible thrust losses major problem (Fig. 5-15). Fig. 5-15.
Jet Vanes

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5 - 18
Solid Rocket TVC Methods surface which allows the under expanded
region to be moved 360 degrees around
Rotating Nozzle the rocket nozzle to produce pitch and
yaw control. This system was developed
The rotating nozzle has no throat for the Polaris SLBM.
movement. These nozzles work in pairs
and are slant-cut to create an area of Secondary Fluid Injection
under expansion of exhaust gases on one
side of the nozzle. This creates an A secondary fluid is injected into the
unbalanced side load and the inner wall of exhaust stream to deflect it, thereby
the longer side of the nozzle. Rotation of changing the thrust vector (Fig. 5-17).
the nozzles moves this side load to any Fluid injection creates unbalanced shock
point desired and provides roll, yaw and waves in the exhaust nozzle which
pitch control. This system is simple but deflects the exhaust stream. There are
produces slow changes in the velocity two types of fluid injection systems.
vector. Rotating nozzles are usually The Liquid Injection TVC uses both
supplemented with some other form of inert (water) and reactive fluids (rocket
TVC. propellants) for the TVC. Reactive fluid
combustion in the exhaust plume creates
Swiveled Nozzle the greater effect. Hydrazine, water,
nitrogen tetroxide, bromine, hydrogen
The swiveled nozzle changes the peroxide, and Freon have all been used.
direction of the throat and nozzle. It is
similar to gambaling in liquid propellant
engines. The main drawback in using this
method is the difficulty in fabricating the
seal joint of the swivel since this joint is
exposed to extremely high pressures and
temperatures (Fig. 5-16).

Movable Control
Fig. 5-17. Thrust Vectoring
Movable Control
Surfaces physically The Hot Gas Injection TVC uses gas
deflect the exhaust or either vented from the main combustion
create voids in the chamber, or from an auxiliary gas
exhaust plume to generator. These gases are “dumped”
divert the thrust into the nozzle to cause the unbalanced
vector. This method shock wave.
includes jet vanes, jet Fig. 5-16.
tabs, and mechanical Swiveled Nozzle
probes. These TVC
approaches are all based on proven
technology with low actuator power
required. They suffer from erosion and
cause thrust loss with any deflection.
A similar system is the jetavator, a slip-
ring or collar at the nozzle exit which
creates an under expansion region (as
discussed in conjunction with rotating
nozzles). The jetavator is a movable

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5 - 19

Table 5-1 summarizes the capabilities of the different types of rocket engines and
propellants. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Specific use of a particular
type depends upon the mission.

Type Thrust Isp Missions

(1000 lbs)
Chemical Manned missions near Earth and
Liquid 1500 260-455 Moon. Instrumented probes to Venus
200-300 and Mars.
Solid 2000-3000
Nuclear 250 600-1000 Heavy payload manned missions to
Moon, Venus and Mars.
Arc-Jet .01 400-2500 Very heavy payloads from Earth orbit.
Plasma .005 2000-10,000 To other planets and stationkeeping
Ion .001 7500- 30,000 For deep space missions
Table 5-1. Rocket Engines and Propellants


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5 - 20

Asker, James R., “Moon/Mars Prospects May Hinge on Nuclear Propulsion,” Aviation
Week & Space Technology, December 2, 1991, pp. 38-44.

Hill, Philip G., Peterson, Carl R., Mechanics and Thermodynamics of Propulsion.
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, MA, 1970.

Jane’s Spaceflight Directory, Jane’s, London, 1987.

Space Handbook, Air University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, January 1985.

Sutton, George P., Rocket Propulsion Elements, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1986.

Wertz, James R., and Wiley J. Larson, ed., Space Mission Analysis and Design, Kluwer
Academic Publishers, Boston, MA, 1991.

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