Cryogenic rocket engine and propellents

Rocket engine
A rocket engine

, or simply "rocket", is a jet engine


that uses only propellant mass for forming its high speed

propulsive jet. Rocket engines are reaction engines and obtain thrust in accordance with Newton's third law. Since they need no external material to form their jet, rocket engines can be used for spacecraft propulsion as well as terrestrial uses, such as missiles. Most rocket engines are internal combustion engines, although non combusting forms also exist. Rocket engines as a group have the highest exhaust velocities, are by far the lightest, but are the least propellant efficient of all types of jet engines.

Types of rocket engines
Rocket motor (or solid-propellant rocket motor) is a synonymous term with rocket engine that usually refers to solid rocket engines. Liquid rockets (or liquid-propellant rocket engine) use one or more liquid propellants that are held in tanks prior to burning. Hybrid rockets have a solid propellant in the combustion chamber and a second liquid or gas propellant is added to permit it to burn. Thermal rockets are rockets where the propellant is inert, but is heated by a power source such as solar or nuclear power or beamed energy. Monopropellant rockets are rockets where the propellant is one chemical, typically hi-test (85%+) hydrogen peroxide, which is decomposed by a catalyst producing steam and oxygen. There is no flame.

Liquid-propellant rocket
A liquid-propellant rocket or a liquid rocket is a rocket engine that uses propellants in liquid form. Liquids are desirable because their reasonably high density allows the volume of the propellant tanks to be relatively low, and it is possible to use lightweight pumps to pump the propellant from the tanks into the engines, which means that the propellants can be kept under low pressure. This permits the use of low mass propellant tanks, permitting a high mass ratio for the rocket.


Typically Hydrogen and Oxygen are used which need to be held below 20°K (-423°F) and 90°K (-297°F) to remain liquid. the engine can be throttled. there is another important factor which must be taken into consideration: the density of the propellant. i. The Shuttle's smaller thrusters for orbital manuvering use non-cyogenic hypergolic fuels. one with a high speed of exhaust gas ejection. stopped. Cryogenic Engines are rocket motors designed for liquid fuels that have to be held at very low "cryogenic" temperatures to be liquid . stated another way. materials that are resistant to certain propellants have been identified for use in rocket construction. However. Safety hazards exist when handling. liquefied gases. Storage temperature is also important. Using low density propellants means that larger storage tanks will be required. will require thermal insulation. Liquid propellant engines are more complex than their solid propellant counterparts. or restarted. thus further increasing the mass of the launcher. its fuel or oxidizer (or both) are gases liquefied and stored at very low temperatures. A propellant with a low storage temperature. some propellants are very corrosive. The Space Shuttle's main engines used for liftoff are cryogenic engines. transporting. It is a type of liquid propellent rocket engine. Also. however. By controlling the flow of propellant to the combustion chamber. a cryogenic. Liquid propellants used in rocketry can be classified into three types: petroleum. A good liquid propellant is one with a high specific impulse or.Liquid Propellants In a liquid propellant rocket. Cryogenic Propellants In a cryogenic propellant the fuel and the oxidizer are in the form of very cold. that is. and are fed through a system of pipes. which are compact and are stored at warm . the fuel and oxidizer are stored in separate tanks. valves. cryogens.they would otherwise be gas at normal temperatures. Thus we can say that super cooled gases used as liquid fuels are called cryogenic fuels. and storing highly toxic compounds. and hypergols. and turbopumps to a combustion chamber where they are combined and burned to produce thrust. Cryogenic rocket engine A cryogenic rocket engine is a rocket engine that uses a cryogenic fuel or oxidizer. These liquefied gases are referred to as super cooled as they stay in liquid form even though they are at a temperature lower than the freezing point. however. thus increasing the mass of the launch vehicle. This implies a high combustion temperature and exhaust gases with small molecular weights. they offer several advantages. The toxicity of the propellant is likewise important.e.

China. for generating the necessary thrust. The combustor is fed high pressure air by the compression system.140 kg/m3 (1.temperatures. liquid oxygen and low molecular weight hydrocarbons are in gaseous state and to get required mass flow rate. and gains a density of 70 kg/ m (70 mg/cm ). All cryogenic rocket engines work on expander cycle or gas-generator cycle or staged combustion cycle depending on thrust requirement. The use of liquid fuel rocket engines was first considered by the German. Various cryogenic fuels combination were tried and the liquid oxygen oxidizer and the liquid hydrogen (LH2) fuel combination caught special attention of engineers as: both components are easily and cheaply available. adds fuel and burns the mix and feeds the hot. bio-friendly. Currently. only the United States. among all non-toxic pairs. .14 g/cm3). and all discovered that rocket engines needed high mass flow rate for both liquid oxidizer and fuel. Japan and India have mastered cryogenic rocket technology. y y y y y The combustion chamber in gas turbines and jet engines (including ramjets and scramjets) is called the combustor. high pressure exhaust into the turbine components of the engine or out the exhaust nozzle. non-corrosive and have the highest entropy release by combustion. Liquefaction temperature of oxygen is 89 kelvins and at this temperature liquid oxygen achieves a density of 1. At atmospheric conditions. Fuel injector.   Construction The major components of a cryogenic rocket engine are: y y The thrust chamber or combustion chamber. France. for hydrogen it is 20 kelvins. Russia. For that. a few kelvins above absolute zero. And.4 kN·s/kg). American and Soviet engineers independently. since the oxidizer and fuel are at subzero temperatures. Higher thrust levels were achieved when liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrocarbon were used as fuel. these are stored in liquid form by cooling them down and hence the name cryogenic rocket engines. the only option is to feed them to the engine in liquid form. Gas turbine. LOX LH2 cryogenic rocket engines produce specific impulse up to 450 s (4.

e. performs many other functions related to the combustion and cooling processes and is much more important to the function of the rocket engine than the carburetor is for an automobile engine. stable combustion process. thermites. Regulators.g. located directly over the high-pressure combustion. since it provides the fuel and oxidizer at the proper rates and in the correct proportions. the injector also performs the structural task of closing off the top of the combustion chamber against the high pressure and temperature it contains.The injector implementation in liquid rockets determines the percentage of the theoretical performance of the nozzle that can be achieved. where the pumping is done by throwing fluid outward at high speed. more difficult-to-ignite materials. the entire fuel is fed through the gas turbines. this may be an appropriate comparison. A poor injector performance causes unburnt propellant to leave the engine. the injector. gas generators. injectors are also usually key in reducing thermal loads on the nozzle. usually both mounted on the same shaft. However. y y Additionally. The fuel tanks and Rocket engine nozzle. this gives much lower temperatures on the walls of the nozzle. y A rocket engine nozzle is a propelling nozzle (usually of the de Laval type) used in a rocket engine to expand and accelerate the combustion gases produced by burning propellants so that the exhaust gases exit the nozzle at hypersonic velocities. or upper. y y A turbopump is a gas turbine that comprises basically two main components: a rotodynamic pump and a driving turbine. giving extremely poor efficiency. or sometimes geared together. The injector has been compared to the carburetor of an automobile engine. end of the combustor. y Pyrotechnic igniter. The injector. y y Fuel turbopumps. The purpose of a turbopump is to produce a high pressure fluid for feeding a combustion chamber or other use. by increasing the proportion of fuel around the edge of the chamber. y y y y y Cryo valves. A turbopump can comprise one of two types of pumps: centrifugal pump. which intern drive the cryopump for fuel and oxidizer. y The fuel flow can be differentiated into a main flow or a bypass flow configuration. A pyrotechnic initiator (also initiator or igniter) is a device containing a pyrotechnic composition used primarily to ignite other. Placed at the forward. and solid-fuel rockets. and . The name is often used also for the compositions themselves. or axial flow pump. as the name implies. where alternating rotating and static blades progressively raise the pressure of a fluid. injects the propellants into the combustion chamber in the right proportions and the right conditions to yield an efficient. In the main flow design.

the fuel flow is split. Rocket engine can generates 5. Working cryogenic rocket engines (or. CECE is a step forward in NASA's efforts to develop reliable. or the simplest pressure-fed cycle. In the bypass configuration. and a winter wonder. Therefore. ressure-fed cycle (rocket) . the main part is goes to the combustion chamber to generate thrust. As CECE burns its frigid fuels. Using liquid hydrogen and oxygen in rockets will provide major advantages for landing astronauts on the moon. The steam is cooled by the cold engine nozzle. robust technologies to return to the moon.then injected to the combustion chamber. The engine components are super-cooled to similar low temperatures. The Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine (CECE) has completed its third round of intensive testing. a staged combustion cycle. all liquid-propellant engines) work in either an expander cycle. generally. gas composed of hot steam is produced and propelled out the nozzle creating thrust. It's cryogenic.000 degree steam and 13. condensing and eventually freezing at the nozzle exit to form icicles. to drive the cryopumps for fuel and oxidizer and is subsequently injected to combustion chamber. a gas-generator cycle. This technology development engine is fueled by a mixture of -297°F liquid oxygen and 423°F liquid hydrogen. NASA can use this weight savings to bring a bigger spacecraft with a greater payload to the moon than with the same amount of conventional propellants. while a small amount of the fuel goes to the turbine.800 pounds of thrust form icicles at the rim of its nozzle. Hydrogen is very light but enables about 40% greater performance (force on the rocket per pound of propellant) than other rocket fuels.

High pressure propellant tanks require thicker walls and stronger alloys which make the vehicle tanks heavier. Multiple burns can be conducted by merely opening and closing the propellant valves as needed. eliminating the need for turbopumps. Propellant tanks are pressurized to supply fuel and oxidizer to the engine. or damage components not designed for low temperatures. A separate gas supply. A typical startup procedure begins with opening a valve. often a one-shot pyrotechnic device.[citation needed] . Pressure-fed engines have practical limits on propellant pressure. If the fuel and oxidizer are hypergolic. they burn on contact. To maintain adequate flow. It was warmed as it was withdrawn through a heat exchanger from the ambient temperature fuel. Care must be taken. The Apollo Lunar Module descent propulsion system was unusual in storing its helium in a supercritical but very cold state. where high pressure ratio nozzles are considered desirable. pressurizes the propellant tanks to force fuel and oxidizer to the combustion chamber. or by gas pressure controlled by smaller electrically operated valves. non-hypergolic fuels require an igniter. Thereby reducing performance and payload capacity. especially during long burns. usually helium. Cold helium won't liquify. the tank pressures must exceed the combustion chamber pressure.Pressure-fed rocket cycle. to avoid excessive cooling of the pressurizing gas due to adiabatic expansion. The pressure-fed cycle is a class of rocket engine designs. They can be operated electrically. but it could freeze a propellant. Then the propellant valves in the engine itself are opened. which in turn limits combustion chamber pressure. Pressure fed engines have simple plumbing and lack complex and often unreliable turbopumps. to allow the pressurizing gas to flow through check valves into the propellant tanks. decrease tank pressures. The lower stages of launch vehicles often use solid fuel and pump-fed liquid fuel engines instead.

Expander cycle (rocket) From Wikipedia. The expander cycle is a power cycle of a bipropellant rocket engine meant to improve the efficiency of fuel delivery. The fuel in the gaseous state expands through a turbine using the pressure differential from the supply pressure to the ambient exhaust pressure to initiate turbopump rotation. the fuel is then injected with the oxidizer into the combustion chamber and burned to produce thrust for the vehicle. After leaving the turbine(s). This bootstrap power is used to drive turbines that drive the fuel and oxidizer pumps increasing the propellant pressures and flows to the rocket engine thrust chamber. As the liquid fuel passes through coolant passages in the walls of the combustion chamber. This can provide a bootstrap starting capability as is used on the Pratt & Whitney RL10 engine. In an expander cycle. it undergoes a phase change into a gaseous state. the fuel is heated before it is combusted. Expander rocket engine (closed cycle). Heat from the nozzle and combustion chamber powers the fuel and oxidizer pumps. the free encyclopedia (Redirected from Expander cycle) Expander rocket cycle. usually with waste heat from the main combustion chamber. .

the volume of fuel that must be heated increases as the cube of the radius. Aerospike engines do not suffer from the same limitations because the linear shape of the engine is not subject to the square-cube law. However. Thus there exists a maximum engine size of approximately 300 kN of thrust beyond which there is no longer enough nozzle area to heat enough fuel to drive the turbines and hence the fuel pumps. allowing arbitrarily wide engines to be constructed. Using the engine bell as a 'gas generator' also makes it very tolerant of fuel contamination because of the wider fuel flow channels used. or propane that easily reach their boiling points. The advantage is that after they have turned gaseous. Inherent safety. allowing the engine to be reusable. the fuels are usually near room temperature. or "bleed" expander cycle. both the volume of fuel to be heated and the available thermal energy increase linearly. In an open cycle. In contrast Gas-generator or Staged combustion engines operate their turbines at high temperature. Tolerance. only some of the fuel is heated to drive the turbines. While this increases power output. Other engine types require complex mechanical or electronic controllers to ensure this does not happen. As the width of the engine increases. The RL10 chewed it up without problems or noticeable degradation in performance. Some expander cycle engine may use a gas generator of some kind to start the turbine and run the engine until the heat input from the thrust chamber and nozzle skirt increases as the chamber pressure builds up. the expander cycle is thrust limited by the square-cube rule. the dumped fuel leads to a decrease in propellant efficiency (lower engine specific impulse).Because of the necessary phase change. the nozzle surface area (from which heat can be extracted to expand the fuel) increases as the square of the radius. During the development of the RL10 engineers were worried that insulation foam mounted on the inside of the tank might break off and damage the engine. which is then vented to atmosphere to increase turbine efficiency. Expander cycles are by design incapable of malfunctioning that way. and do very little or no damage to the turbine. They tested this by putting loose foam in a fuel tank and running it through the engine. methane. Because a bell-type expander-cycle engine is thrust limited. Conventional gas-generators are in practice miniature rocket engines.) Advantages The expander cycle has a number of advantages over other designs:[citation needed]  Low temperature. Blocking even a small part of a gas generator can lead to a hot spot. with all the complexity that implies. As the size of a bell-shaped nozzle increases with increasing thrust. a stuck fuel valve or similar problem can lead to engine thrust spiraling out of control due to unintended feedback systems. In other engine types. which can cause violent loss of the engine. it can easily be designed to withstand its maximum thrust conditions. A closed cycle expander engine sends the turbine exhaust to the combustion chamber (see image at right. Higher thrust levels can be achieved using a bypass expander cycle where a portion of the fuel bypasses the turbine and or thrust chamber cooling passages and goes directly to the main chamber injector. All expander cycle engines need to use a cryogenic fuelsuch as hydrogen.   Gas-generator cycle (rocket) .

The gas generator cycle is a power cycle of a bipropellant rocket engine. There are several advantages to the gas generator cycle over its counterpart. This simplifies plumbing and turbine design. Some of the fuel and oxidizer is burned separately to power the pumps and then discarded. the engine would fail catastrophically. Without rocket combustion chamber and nozzle cooling. The main disadvantage is lost efficiency due to discarded propellant. The gas generator turbine does not need to deal with the counter pressure of injecting the exhaust into the combustion chamber. Because something is "thrown away" this type of engine is also known as open cycle. the staged combustion cycle.[1] . the free encyclopedia Gas generator rocket cycle.From Wikipedia. Gas generator cycles tend to have lower specific impulse than staged combustion cycles.[citation needed] As in most cryogenic rocket engines. and results in a less expensive and lighter engine. Some of the propellant is burned in a gas-generator and the resulting hot gas is used to power the engine's pumps. Most Gas-generator engines use the fuel for nozzle cooling. Cooling permits the use of rocket engines for relatively longer periods of time with today¶s material technology. The gas is then exhausted. Current construction materials cannot stand extreme temperatures of rocket combustion processes by themselves. some of the fuel in a gas-generator cycle is used to cool the nozzle and combustion chamber.

The staged combustion cycle. Usually. also called topping cycle or pre-burner cycle. . These nozzles give far better efficiencies at low altitude. and overall efficiency essentially suffers no pumping losses at all. all of the fuel and a portion of the oxidizer are fed through the pre-burner (fuel rich) to power the pumps.Staged combustion cycle (rocket) Staged combustion rocket cycle. and combustion is completed. along with the rest of the propellant. but less common because of the metallurgy required. Another very significant advantage that staged combustion gives is an abundance of power which permits very high chamber pressures. as opposed to open cycle which dumps the turbopump driving gases. representing a few percent of loss. Very high chamber pressures mean high expansion ratio nozzles can be used. Thus this combustion cycle is often called closed cycle since the cycle is closed as all propellant products go through the chamber. whilst still giving ambient pressures at takeoff. The exhausted gas is then injected into the main combustion chamber. An oxygen rich circuit is possible also. Some of the propellant is burned in a pre-burner and the resulting hot gas is used to power the engine's turbines and pumps.[1] is a thermodynamic cycle of bipropellant rocket engines. The advantage of the staged combustion cycle is that all of the engine cycles' gases and heat go through the combustion chamber.

Thus. In particular. running the full oxidizer stream through both a pre-combustor and maincombustor chamber (oxidizer-rich staged combustion) produces extremely corrosive gases. taps off a small amount of fuel and oxidizer from the main flow (typically 3 to 7 percent) 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 amount of thrust produced. increasing efficiency and allowing higher engine temperature.The disadvantages of this cycle are harsh turbine conditions. Power Cycles Liquid bipropellant rocket engines can be categorized according to their power cycles. . Thus most staged-combustion engines are fuel-rich. Described below are some of the more common types. The gas generator must burn propellants at a less-than-optimal mixture ratio to keep the temperature low for the turbine blades. Gas-generator cycle: The gas-generator cycle. as in the schematic. The hot gas is then either dumped overboard or sent into the main nozzle downstream. Staged combustion engines are the most difficult types of rocket engines to design. also called open cycle. which would have to divert a large portion of the main flow to the less efficient gas-generator flow. how power is derived to feed propellants to the main combustion chamber. which increases the flow of propellants into the main combustion chamber. that more exotic plumbing is required to carry the hot gases. the cycle is appropriate for moderate power requirements but not high-power systems. and that a very complicated feedback and control design is necessary. Increasing the flow of propellants into the gas generator increases the speed of the turbine. some of the propellant in a gas generator cycle is used to cool the nozzle and combustion chamber. As in most rocket engines. that is. A simplified version is called the gas-generator cycle. and hence.


and a very complicated feedback and control design. high temperature piping required to carry hot gases. In the West. Expander cycle: The expander cycle is similar to the staged combustion cycle but has no preburner. injected into the main chamber. this cycle also has a burner. the first laboratory staged combustion test engine was built in Germany in 1963. This cycle works with fuels such as . The preburner taps off and burns a small amount of one propellant and a large amount of the other. The staged combustion cycle is often used for high-power applications. called a preburner. Staged combustion was invented by Soviet engineers and first appeared in 1960. the propellants are burned in stages. Development cost for this cycle is higher because the high pressures complicate the development process. This hot gas is then passed through the turbine. Further disadvantages are harsh turbine conditions.Staged combustion cycle: In a staged combustion cycle. Heat in the cooling jacket of the main combustion chamber serves to vaporize the fuel. The higher the chamber pressure. Like the gas-generator cycle. 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. also called closed cycle. the smaller and lighter the engine can be to produce the same thrust. to generate gas for a turbine. and burned again with the remaining propellants. The fuel vapor is then passed through the turbine and injected into the main chamber to burn with the oxidizer. producing an oxidizer-rich or fuel-rich hot gas mixture that is mostly unburned vaporized propellant.

.hydrogen or methane. This can achieve higher chamber pressures than the closed expander cycle although at lower efficiency because of the overboard flow. As with the staged combustion cycle. making this cycle appropriate for small to midsize engines. A variation of the system is the open. all of the propellants are burned at the optimal mixture ratio in the main chamber. expander cycle. however. or bleed. the turbine exhaust is dumped overboard to ambient pressure to increase the turbine pressure ratio and power output. the heat transfer to the fuel limits the power available to the turbine. In this variation. and typically no flow is dumped overboard. which have a low boiling point and can be vaporized easily. which uses only a portion of the fuel to drive the turbine.


the pressure-fed cycle. Since nitrogen is present nearly 78% in our atmosphere. does not have pumps or turbines but instead relies on tank pressure to feed the propellants into the main chamber. the engine is non pollutant. the exhaust is carbon monoxide. CO2 and other harmful gases. Efficiency is higher in the case of cryogenic engine than that of petrol engines. High Energy per unit mass Propellants like oxygen and hydrogenin 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. the cycle is limited to relatively low chamber pressures because higher pressures make the vehicle tanks too heavy.Pressure-fed cycle: The simplest system. whereas in the case of normal IC engine. In practice. Advantages The cryogenic engines uses liquid nitrogen as the fuel and the exhaust is also nitrogen. The cycle can be reliable. given its reduced part count and complexity compared with other systems. .

49%. When liquid propellants are stored at temperatures above their boiling point they vaporize. So by square/cube law smaller the tank. Cryogenic propellants suffer from certain drawbacks. Lower boil off rates can also be ensured if tanks are maintained at an angle by which their cross sectional area exposed to sun is minimum or tanks are protected by a sunshade. combines with most of the . and proves of no use for propulsion. Liquid oxygen. Drawbacks of Cryogenic Propellants Boil off Rate Since these propellants are in extremely low temperature conditions they are very hard to handle. This water is thrown out of the nozzle in form of very hot vapor. the percentage loss is higher. Thus the boil of rates of liquid hydrogen per month is 3. Since the tank weight increases with design pressure. Let us see what these drawbacks are and how they can be overcomed. With partly filled tanks. They must be protected from heat so as to prevent boiling of gases. we must protect the propellant tank from the heat of the sun. This lost propellant is referred to as boil-off loss. they give out only water. as liquid oxygen costs less than gasoline. When the relief valvereleases the pressure. a pressure relief valve is generally provided to prevent the tank from over pressurizing and exploding. while the original mass of propellant in the tanks depends on volume.016%. Tanks at more distance from the sun have lower boil off rates. some of the propellant escapes from the tank. Heat leakage depends on surface area.81% while that of liquid oxygen is 0. the faster the liquids will boil off. Boil off rate is governed by heat leakage and by the amount of propellant in the tanks.Clean Fuels Hydrogen and oxygen are extremely clean fuels. Highly reactive gases Cryogens are highly concentrated gases and have a very high reactivity. then the pressure increases with temperature.127% while that of liquid oxygen is 0. If these vapors are contained in a tank. To lower the boil off rates. When they combine. which is used as an oxidizer. Thus the rocket is nothing but a high burning steam engine. For liquid hydrogen the boil off rate per day is 0. Economical Use of oxygen and hydrogen as fuels is very economical.

Hydrogen Embrittlement Due to cryogenic propellants. which are roughly below 150 degrees Kelvin or equivalently (-190oF). But in zero gravity conditions. These stresses can damage the structural integrity of the vehicle. The cryogenic propellants certainly have their own disadvantages. and go away from the nozzle that dumps the gas overboard. But their advantages outweigh the disadvantages by far. At cryogenic temperatures. Hydrogen can burst into flames whenever its concentration is approximately 4% to 96%. so that the hydrogen buildup does not cause a hazardous condition. has a tendency to leak past seals or materials. Thus they are preferred for use in rockets. The vapors of the gas are vented away. out of the nozzle resulting in wastage of large amounts of fuel into space. the propellants are cooled continuously. . Hydrogenreacts with certain materials to alter its grain structure causing it to become brittle. being the smallest element. Leakage One of the most major concerns is leakage. the seals of the container used for storing the propellants lose the ability to maintain a seal properly. Also there must be some way of determining the rates of leakage and checking whether a fire hazard exists or not. This pushes the propellant in liquid form. in a process known as hydrogen embrittlement Zero Gravity conditions It is difficult to store cryogenic propellants in zero gravity materials to form explosive compounds. the liquid may flash into vapor. The next liquid propellant is hypergolic propellant. allowing excess heat to be carried away as the gasses boil off. various significant thermal stresses are introduced into the launch vehicle. So lots of care must be taken to ensure safety. It is hence necessary to ensure that hydrogen leak rate is minimal and does not present a hazard. Generally. Hydrogen. The compartments where hydrogen gas may exist in case of a leak must be made safe.

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