Investigation of Nozzle Performance for Rotating Detonation Rocket Engines

2019-08-13T19:49:12Z (GMT) by Alexis Joy Harroun
Progress in conventional rocket engine technologies, based on constant pressure combustion, has plateaued in the past few decades. Rotating detonation engines (RDEs) are of particular interest to the rocket propulsion community as pressure gain combustion may provide improvements to specific impulse relevant to booster applications. Despite recent significant investment in RDE technologies, little research has been conducted to date into the effect of nozzle design on rocket application RDEs. Proper nozzle design is critical to capturing the thrust potential of the transient pressure ratios produced by the thrust chamber. A computational fluid dynamics study was conducted based on hotfire conditions tested in the Purdue V1.3 RDE campaign. Three geometries were investigated: nozzleless/blunt body, internal-external expansion (IE-) aerospike, and flared aerospike. The computational study found the RDE's dynamic exhaust plume enhances the ejection physics beyond that of a typical high pressure device. For the nozzleless geometry, the base pressure was drawn down below constant pressure estimates, increasing the base drag on the engine. For the aerospike geometries, the occurrance of flow separation on the plug was delayed, which has ramifications on nozzle design for operation at a range of pressure altitudes. The flared aerospike design, which has the ability to achieve much higher area ratios, was shown to have potential performance benefits over the limited IE-aerospike geometry. A new test campaign with the Purdue RDE V1.4 was designed with instrumentation to capture static pressures on the nozzleless and aerospike surfaces. These results were used to validate the results from the computational study. The computational and experimental studies were used to identify new flow physics associated with a rocket RDE important to future nozzle design work. Future computational work is necessary to explore the effect of different parameters on the nozzle performance. More testing, including with an altitude simulation chamber, would help quantify the possible benefit of new aerospike nozzle designs, including the flared aerospike geometry.