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Cryogenic Rocket Engines Submitted By :

KIRAN S SANKANAGOUDAR kskskiran@gmail.com & SANDEEP P GAONKAR pgsandeep3@gmail.com

Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering



Cryogenics is a branch of Thermal Engineering that deals with production and maintenance of very low temperatures for specific purposes. We discuss about the Definition, Application of Cryogenics, Cryogenic Propellants, Production of Cryogenic Propellants, Storage, Utilization, Safety and Cryo Engine specifications used in Rockets. In brief, we are introducing the concept of cryogenics and its technology considering Propellants as the basic application. Cryogenics is a new branch of engineering under Refrigeration, which has a vast area of application as we come to know about each under the discussion. It is basically about the liquifaction of the gases (permanent gases such as Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen etc.), which have boiling points well below the logical dividing line of 1800C (93.15K). Hence, all substances that deal with maintenance of very low temperatures, below the dividing line are termed as cryogenics

Cryogenics by definition is that branch of Physics or Engineering that deal with the substances that need to be maintained at temperatures below that of the logical dividing line of 1800C (93.15K). It is the recent technological advancement in the field of Medicine, Aerospace, Metallurgy and Preservation of biological objects.

Cryogenics originated from two Greek words kyros which means cold or freezing and genes which means born or produced. Cryogenics is the study of very low temperatures or the production of the same. Liquefied gases like liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen are used in many cryogenic applications. Liquid nitrogen is the most commonly used element in cryogenics and is legally purchasable around the world.

Liquid helium is also commonly used and allows for the lowest temperatures to be reached. These gases can be stored on large tanks called Dewar tanks, named after James Dewar, who first liquefied hydrogen, or in giant tanks used for commercial applications. The field of cryogenics advanced when during world war two, when metals were frozen to low temperatures showed more wear resistance. In 1966, a company was formed, called Cyro-Tech, which experimented with the possibility of using cryogenic tempering instead of Heat Treating, for increasing the life of metal tools. The engine components are also cooled so the fuel doesn't boil to a gas in the lines that feed the engine. The thrust comes from the rapid expansion from liquid to gas with the gas emerging from the motor at very high speed. The energy needed to heat the fuels comes from burning them, once they are gasses. Cryogenic engines are the highest performing rocket motors. One disadvantage is that the fuel tanks tend to be bulky and require heavy insulation to store the propellant. Their high fuel efficiency, however, outweighs this disadvantage. The Space Shuttle's main engines used for liftoff are cryogenic engines. The Shuttle's smaller thrusters for orbital maneuvering use non-cryogenic hypergolic fuels, which are compact and are stored at warm temperatures. Currently, only the United States, Russia, China, France, Japan and India have mastered cryogenic rocket technology. All the current Rockets run on Liquidpropellant rockets. The first operational cryogenic rocket engine was the 1961 NASA design the RL-10 LOX LH2 rocket engine, which was used in the Saturn 1 rocket employed in the early stages of the Apollo moon landing program. The major components of a cryogenic rocket engine are: the thrust chamber or combustion chamber pyrotechnic igniter fuel injector fuel turbo-pumps gas turbine cryo valves

Regulators The fuel tanks rocket engine nozzle Among them, the combustion chamber & the nozzle are the main components of the rocket engine.

Classification of Space Propulsion System


Spacecraft propulsion is any method used to accelerate spacecraft and artificial satellites. There are many different methods. Each method has drawbacks and advantages, and spacecraft propulsion is an active area of research. However, most spacecraft today are propelled by forcing a gas from the back/rear of the vehicle at very high speed through a supersonic de Laval nozzle. This sort of engine is called a rocket engine. All current spacecraft use chemical rockets (bipropellant or solid-fuel) for launch, though some have used air-breathing engines on their first stage. Most satellites have simple reliable chemical thrusters. Soviet bloc satellites have used electric propulsion for decades, and newer Western geo-orbiting spacecraft are starting to use them for north-south station keeping. Interplanetary vehicles mostly use chemical rockets as well, although a few have used ion thrusters to great success.

For small storage of cryogenic substances Dewar Flasks are used. (1.8m x 91.5cm). They are named after James Dewar who was the pioneer in liquefaction of Hydrogen. For larger quantities special insulators need to be employed. One of which is explained below. Many workers achieve this by the use of liquid nitrogen (at 196C), which is a dangerous medium to work in as the 700X expansion on heating of the material in an enclosed space can lead to explosions. We therefore recommend that samples be stored in the gas phase above the nitrogen (-178 to 150C) to be absolutely safe. In this state the temperature is well below the level required to keep the material in good condition. There are many types of Dewars used for the same purpose of storage. From Horizontal to vertical, from open hoopers to closed, we have all types of Dewars as per the industrial requirements.

Cooling Requirement Cryogenics:

It can be achieved by mainly three methods, By Transfer of Heat By External Work By Isenthalpic Expansion


By transfer of heat:
Substances can be cooled to cryogenic temperatures by transferring heat from a cold gas stream by using flat plate heat exchangers. A matrix of flat plate and corrugated fins can be used for the construction of the Heat exchanger.

Isenthalpic Expansion:
We are familiar with the JouleThompson effect. The working temperature and pressure must be well within the Inversion curve of the specified gas. However, this process is highly ideal, and its practicably too far from reality.

By External Work:
Adiabatic expansion of a gas in a turbine or reverse engineering as in case of a reciprocating engine can be applied to produce the required low temperature. Thus as it explains itself, we need a refrigerant which has a boiling point lesser than the required temperature as a working fluid to accomplish the same.

Expansion system can be applied by the use of a Brayton cycle engine working under the reverse. A Turbo-Expander can also be used to accomplish the above same. A Linde's valve can be used for higher efficiency in cooling. It employs a Heat Exchanger, a JouleThompson valve and a compressor to achieve the cooling effect. Also a Claude cycle can be applied for the above same.

Gas-Generator Cycle ROCKET ENGINE POWER CYCLES Gas pressure feed system
A simple pressurized feed system is shown schematically below. It consists of a high-pressure gas tank, a gas starting valve, a pressure regulator, propellant tanks, propellant valves, and feed lines. Additional components, such as filling and draining provisions, check valves, filters, flexible elastic bladders for separating the liquid from the pressurizing gas, and pressure sensors or gauges, are also often incorporated. After all tanks are filled, the high-pressure gas valve is remotely actuated and admits gas through the pressure regulator at a constant pressure to the propellant tanks. The check valves prevent mixing of the oxidizer with the fuel when the unit is not in an right position. The propellants are fed to the thrust chamber by opening valves. When the propellants are completely consumed, the pressurizing gas can also scavenge and clean lines and valves of much of the liquid propellant residue. The variations in this system, such as the combination of several valves into one or the elimination and addition of certain components, depend to a large extent on the application. If a unit is to be used over and over, such as spacemaneuver rocket, it will include several additional features such as, possibly, a thrustregulating device and a tank level gauge. The gas-generator cycle taps off a small amount of fuel and oxidizer from the main flow to feed a burner called a gas generator. The hot gas from this generator passes through a turbine to generate power for the pumps that send propellants to the combustion chamber. The hot gas is then either dumped overboard or sent into the main nozzle downstream. Increasing the flow of propellants into the gas generator increases the speed of the turbine, which increases the flow of propellants into the main combustion chamber (and hence, the amount of thrust produced). The gas generator must burn propellants at a less-than-optimal mixture ratio to keep the temperature low for the turbine blades. Thus, the cycle is appropriate for moderate power requirements but not highpower systems, which would have to divert a large portion of the main flow to the less efficient gas-generator flow.

Staged Combustion Cycle

In a staged combustion cycle, the propellants are burned in stages. Like the gasgenerator cycle, this cycle also has a burner, called a preburner, to generate gas for aturbine. The pre-burner taps off and burn a small amount of one propellant and a large amount of the other, producing an oxidizer-rich or fuel-rich hot gas mixture that is mostly unburned vaporized propellant. This hot gas is then passed through the turbine, injected into the main chamber, and burned again with the remaining propellants. The advantage over

the gas-generator cycle is that all of the propellants are burned at the optimal mixture ratio in the main chamber and no flow is dumped overboard. The staged combustion cycle is often used for high-power applications. The higher the chamber pressure, the smaller and lighter the engine can be to produce the same thrust. Development cost for this cycle is higher because the high pressures complicate the development process.


The thrust chamber is the key subassembly of a rocket engine. Here the liquid propellants are metered, injected, atomized, vaporized, mixed, and burned to form hot reaction gas products, which in turn are accelerated and ejected at high velocity. A rocket thrust chamber assembly has an injector, a combustion chamber, a supersonic nozzle, and mounting provisions. All have to withstand the extreme heat of combustion and the various forces, including the transmission of the thrust force to the vehicle. There also is an ignition system if nonspontaneously ignitable propellants are used.

The functions of the injector are similar to those of a carburetor of an internal combustion engine. The injector has to introduce and meter the flow of liquid propellants to the combustion chamber, cause the liquids to be broken up into small droplets (a process called atomization), and distribute and mix the propellants in such a manner that a correctly proportioned mixture of fuel and oxidizer will result, with uniform propellant mass flow and composition over the chamber cross section. This has been accomplished with different types of injector designs and elements. The injection hole pattern on the face of the injector is closely related to the internal manifolds or feed passages within the injector. These provide for the distribution of the propellant from the injector inlet to all the injection holes. Dribbling results in afterburning, which is an inefficient irregular combustion that gives a little "cutoff" thrust after valve closing. For applications with very accurate terminal vehicle velocity requirements, the cutoff impulse has to be very small and reproducible and often valves are built into the injector to minimize passage volume. Impinging-stream-type, multiple-hole injectors are commonly used with oxygenhydrocarbon and storable propellants. For unlike doublet patterns the propellants are injected through a number of separate small holes in such a manner that the fuel and oxidizer streams impinge upon each other. Impingement forms thin liquid fans and aids atomization of the liquids into droplets, also aiding distribution. The two liquid streams then form a fan which breaks up into droplets.

pressure drop. This type of variable area concentric tube injector was used on the descent engine of the Lunar Excursion Module and throttled over a 10:1 range of flow with only a very small change in mixture ratio. The coaxial hollow post injector has been used for liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen injectors by most domestic and foreign rocket designers. It works well when the liquid hydrogen has absorbed heat from cooling jackets and has been gasified. This gasified hydrogen flows at high speed (typically 330 m/sec or 1000 ft/sec); the liquid oxygen flows far more slowly (usually at less than 33 m/sec or 100 ft/sec) and the differential velocity causes a shear action, which helps to break up the oxygen stream into small droplets. The injector has a multiplicity of these coaxial posts on its face.

Primary Ignition
begins at the time of deposition of the energy into the shear layer and ends when the flame front has reached the outer limit of the shear layer. starts interaction with the recirculation zone. phase typically lasts about half a millisecond. it is characterised by a slight but distinct downstream movement of the flame . The flame velocity more or less depends on the pre-mixedness of the shear layer only.

The position where the movement of the upstream flame front comes to an end, the characteristic times of convection and flame propagation are balanced.

Flame Propagation
This phase corresponds to the time span for the flame reaching the edge of theshear layer, expands into in the recirculation zone and propagates until it has consumed all the premixed propellants. This period lasts between 0.1 and 2 ms. It is characterised by an upstream movement of the upstream flame front until it reaches a minimum distance from the injector face plate. It is accompanied by a strong rise of the flame intensity and by a peak in the combustion chamber pressure.

Flame Anchoring.
This period lasts from 20 ms to more than 50 ms, depending on the injection condition. It begins when the flame starts to move a second time upstream to injector face plate and ends when the flame has reached stationary conditions. During this phase the flame propagates upstream only in the shear layer . Same as flame lift-off phase the vaporisation is enhanced by the hot products which are entrained into the shear layer through the recirculation zone. This local flame velocity is depending on the upstream LOX-evaporation rates, i.e., the available gaseous O2, mixing of O2 and H2, hot products and radicals in the shear layer. At the end of this phase, combustion chamber pressure and emission intensity are constant.

The duration of this phase as well as the pressure and emission behaviour during this phase depend strongly on the global characteristics of the stationary cold flow before ignition.

Flame Lift Off

phase starts when the upstream flame front begins to move downstream awayfrom the injector because all premixed propellants in the recirculation zone have been consumed until it reaches a maximum distance. This period lasts between 1 and 5 ms. The emission of the flame is less intense showing that the chemical activity has decreased.


HM-7 cryogenic propellant rocket engine has been used as an upper stage engine on all versions of the Ariane launcher. The more powerful HM-7B version was used on Ariane's 2, 3 and 4 and is also used on the ESC-A cryogenic upper stage of Ariane 5. Important principles used in the HM-7 combustion chamber were adopted by NASA under license and it is this technology that formed the basis of today's US space the first launch of Ariane 1 in December 1979.

Vulcain Rocket Engine

The Vulcain engines are gas-generator cycle cryogenic rocket engines fed with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. They feature regenerative cooling through a tube wall design, and the Vulcain 2 introduced a particular film cooling for the lower part of the nozzle, where exhaust gas from the turbine is re-injected in the engine The engine operating time is 600 s in both configurations. The coaxial injector elements cause the LOX and LH2 propellants to be mixed together. LOX is injected at the centre of the injector, around which the LH2 is injected. These propellants are mainly atomized and mixed by shear forces generated by the velocity differences between LOX and LH2. The final acceleration of hot gases, up to supersonic velocities, is achieved by gas expansion in the nozzle extension, thereby increasing the thrust.

300 N Cryogenic Engine:

Used as a main engine for oorbital insertion, orbital transfer, orbital, and interplanetary applications including upper stage kick stage vernier stage transfer stage The thrust chamber and throat region of the engine are regenerative cooled using hydrogen propellant. being pressure fed, the engine does not requires any turbo pump, with its associated complexity.

main engine of the Ariane 5 cryogenic first stage (EPC).

VINCI Rocket Engine:

Vinci is a European Space Agency cryogenic rocket engine currently under development. It is designed to power the new upper stage of Ariane 5, ESC-B, and will be the first European re-ignitable cryogenic upper stage engine, raising the launcher's GTO performances to 12 t. Vinci is an expander cycle rocket engine fed with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Its biggest improvement from its predecessor, the HM-7 is the capability of restarting up to five times. It is also the first European expander cycle engine, removing the need for a gas generator to drive the fuel and oxydizer pumps. It features a carbon ceramic extendable nozzle in order to have a large, 2.15 m diameter nozzle extension with minimum length: the retracted nozzle part is deployed only after the upper stage separates from the rest of the rocket; after extension, the engine's overall length increases from 2.3 m to 4.2 m.

Clean Fuels: Hydrogen and oxygen are extremely clean fuels. When they combine, they give out only water. This water is thrown out of the nozzle in form of very hot vapour. Thus the rocket is nothing but a high burning steam engine Economical: Use of oxygen and hydrogen as fuels is very economical, as liquid oxygen costs less than gasoline.


Highly reactive gases Leakage Hydrogen Embrittlement Zero Gravity conditions

Merits & Demerits of cryogenic:

Some of the credits to cryogenics is that when safely used, it can be very helpful to mankind, as given in the applications part, from medicine to engineering, cryo liquids are employed totally. It has a wide area of application. The propellant mixture of cryogenic substances is very clean and needs to be de-activated at the right times before it harms anyone. Hence, all the merits can be analyzed from the applications point of view. The main disadvantage of these propellants is their very low temperature. They must be protected from heat so as to prevent boiling off of gases. When liquid propellants are stored at temperatures above their boiling point they vaporize. If these vapors are contained in a tank, then the pressure increases with temperature. Thus resulting in an explosion. This has to be prevented. One of the most major concerns is leakage. At cryogenic temperatures, which are roughly below 150 degrees Kelvin or equivalently (-190) degrees Fahrenheit, the seals of the container used for storing the propellants lose the ability to maintain a seal properly. Hydrogen, being the smallest element, has a tendency to leak past seals or materials. Hydrogen can burst into flames whenever its concentration is approximately 4% to 96%. It is hence necessary to ensure that hydrogen leak rate is minimal and does not present a

High Energy per unit mass: Propellants like oxygen and hydrogen in liquid form give very high amounts of energy per unit mass due to which the amount of fuel to be carried aboard the rockets decreases.

hazard. The compartments where hydrogen gas may exist in case of a leak must be made safe, so that the hydrogen buildup does not cause a hazardous condition.

Cryogenic substances have their own hazards when compared with their applications. The workers need to be protected from contact with the cryogenic gases as prolonged exposure can cause Frostbite. As in case of burns with regard to flames, even cryogenic substances can cause burns on the skin. At cryogenic temperatures many materials behave in ways unfamiliar under ordinary conditions. Mercury solidifies and rubber becomes as brittle as glass. The specific heats of gases and solids decrease in a way that confirms the predictions of quantum theory. The vapors and gases released from cryogenic liquids also remain very cold. They often condense the moisture in air, creating a highly visible fog. Cryogenic gases can cause Asphyxiation which is analogous with the phenomenon of reduction of oxygen percentage (less than 18%).

satellite into the GTO or a 10 tones class satellite into the LEO. The Mk III has a cryo stage carrying 25 tones of LH2 & LOX as propellants and is capable of developing 20 tones of thrust (197kN). It employs a TBC engine to develop this huge amount of thrust. The picture shows, the testing of the cryogenic propellant based engine of GSLV Mk II. It is easy to notice that the combustion products produced are hardly visible when compared with other propellants.

The area of Cryogenics in Cryogenic Rocket Engines is a vast one and it cannot be described in a few words. As the world progress new developments are being made more and more new developments are being made in the field of Rocket Engineering. Now a day cryo propelled rocket engines are having a great demand in the field of space exploration. Due to the high specific impulse obtained during the ignition of fuels they are of much demand.

It is used as propellants for many space shuttles and rockets. To name a few we have, Airiane, GSLV Mk I/II/III, NASAs space shuttles, etc., we consider GSLV Mk II and III as the examples. The third stage of the rocket in the GSLV Mk II is the GS3 or the cryogenic stage that employs LH2 & LOX as propellants.

Google images and information. Rocket propulsion elements By G. P. Sutton, 7th edition.

It has a burn out time of 705 seconds and is considered to be most clean among all other propellants. GSLV Mk II has a capability of launching a 2000 kg class satellite into the GTO. While the new advancement the Mk III, has a capability of launching a 4000 kg class