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ENG H192 Hands-on Lab

Aerodynamics And Propulsion


Background Airplanes are just one type of machine that uses pressure and propulsion in
order to function. The design of aircraft and spacecraft centers on a detailed
understanding of pressure and how it is related to other engineering concepts.
Lift, drag, engine propulsion, and speed measurements are all based on
pressure and its use.

Purpose The purpose of this lab is to familiarize you with some basic principles of
aerodynamics and properties of propulsion, thrust and impulse.

Basic Principles In this lab write-up, we will cover some basic principles for:
1) Pressure in flight,
2) Propulsion,
3) Thrust, and
4) Impulse.

Lab Experience The lab experience will encompass:

1) Using a data acquisition system to collect data from a model
rocket engine, and
2) Building and testing airfoils.

Aerodynamics: Basic Concepts

Pressure in An airfoil is a device that alters the air pressure around its surface, and in
Fligh doing so causes a net force to act on the object. As air flows across an airfoil
t (which is the term for the shape of an airplane wing) the air on the top surface
of the wing is forced to move faster than the air on the bottom surface. The
speed of the air is inversely related to pressure; that is, as the speed increases,
the pressure decreases. Since the pressure is lower on the top surface of the
wing and higher on the bottom surface of the wing, this difference in pressure
distribution produces a resultant net force which pushes up on the airfoil.

Racing cars use this same principal, but in the opposite way. Cars get better
traction if they are heavier, but they go slower if they are heavier. To solve
the traction problem of light, fast cars, an airfoil is used to push the car down
onto the track, and in doing so, simulate a heavier car.

The aerodynamics of airfoils and other related devices are a great deal more
involved than the simple explanations stated. The characteristics of the flow
are important: turbulent flow (erratic and choppy) or laminar (smooth) create
much different results. Also the surface properties, the orientation of the
airfoil with respect to the oncoming air, and many other factors influence the
performance of the airfoils.

Propulsion: Basic Concepts

Propulsion Propulsion puts rockets in space, moves jet airliners, and also causes garden
hoses to flop around aimlessly when no one is holding on to them.
Propulsion causes objects to move by building up pressure and then expelling
the pressure to create a force, or thrust, that pushes an object along. A rocket
engine burns fuel and creates high-pressure gases that are forced out a narrow
opening. When the hot, high-pressure gasses are expelled, they are at a high
rate of speed and while the gases are pushed out, the gases are pushing back
on the rocket (equal and opposite forces). In a sense, it is this force pushing
back on the rocket that causes the rocket to move. (Actually this can be quite
complex, and we've somewhat simplified it here.)
When we talk about propulsion, we are often interested in discussing just how
much force our rocket (or jet) engine can develop, and just how much work it
is capable of doing. This is just the same as when we talk about a car, and
wonder what its engine size is (which we assume is related to acceleration)
and its fuel tank size and fuel economy (which we assume is related to total
distance it can travel between fill-ups).

Thrust Thrust in propulsion is analogous to the engine size in a car. Thrust is defined
as the amount of propulsive force generated by the engine. For example, a jet
engine might be capable of generating 50,000 pounds of thrust, which is the
equivalent of pushing on the airplane with a force of 50,000 pounds (that's a

Thrust is often expressed in the form of a thrust curve. You can see an
example of a thrust curve in the figure below (left side). The thrust curve
describes how an engine generates force over time. Often, a thrust curve also
shows the average thrust, which is the average force generated by the engine
over the time it was firing (below, right side). In calculus, you will (or
already have) learn that the area under the thrust curve will be equal to the
area under the average thrust line (as shown below).

F Indicates the F Indicates the average

O force (thrust) O force (average thrust)
R generated at R generated over time
C any given time C
Area=impulse Area=impulse


Impulse Impulse is analogous to the range between fill ups for a car (this is stretching
the analogy very thin!). It is defined as the total change in momentum for the
system. (Remember that momentum=m*v ... m=mass, v=velocity) It turns
out that impulse can also be calculated by integrating the area under a thrust
curve. This is a very important result because if we know the impulse a
rocket can generate, we can then figure out how much it's momentum will
change. Note that if the rocket is being acted on by gravity, we must take
gravitational forces into consideration.

Make sketches of equipment used in lab; include them in your lab write-up.

Rocket Engine A data acquisition system is used to collect data in order to obtain the thrust
over time curve of a given model rocket engine.

 Record the specifications of the model rocket engine to be tested.

 Attach an igniter to the model rocket engine as directed.

 Place the model rocket engine on the test stand.

 Connect the igniter to the ignition circuit.

 Make sure that the sensor is connected to the signal conditioning

module, and that the power supply is ON and properly set to 20 Volts.

 The data acquisition program should be started at the same time the
model rocket engine is ignited. Stop the program as soon as the engine
runs out of fuel. The data needs to be saved in a text file as tab-delimited
values (not comma-separated values).

 Copy the file onto a diskette for future analysis. The sensor has a
sensitivity of 9.478 Newtons/Volt. Use this to convert raw data (volts)
into Thrust (Newtons).

NOTE: the data is acquired at a rate of is 100 samples/second.

How high would the rocket have traveled if it were launched straight
up? Be sure to state your assumptions and show your work.

Airfoil Design Make two airfoils, the one you have a model for, and one you design yourself.
Follow the instructions on the following page to make the airfoil. Mount your
airfoils on a pan balance. Observe the flow characteristics of the airfoils.
Measure lift (in grams) for at least three different angles of attack. Tabulate
your results.


• Comment on what you discovered from lab. From your

observations, what are the characteristics of a good airfoil?

• If by increasing your angle of attack you can increase the lift force
on the airfoil, why do you think airplanes do not typically fly at
high angles of attack?


Format  Lab report format (Individual or Team) will be assigned in lab

 Follow given standard lab report format.

General  Show a sketch of the test setup. Use labels.

Guid  Write a program to calculate (or use a program like MATALB to help
eline determine) average thrust, impulse, and delay time for your model rocket
s engine. Use the sensitivity (9.478 N/V) to convert the raw data (voltage)
into Thrust (Newtons). Include equations and sample calculations.
Document your program.
 Compare your results to the specifications supplied from the
manufacturer. Use consistent units.
 Make a plot of the rocket thrust force (Newtons) over time (seconds)
using the acquired data.
 Make sketches of the two airfoils showing the angle of attack. Indicate
the difference in lift between the two designs.
 Provide answers to questions.
 Include Analysis of Results/Conclusions.


Procedure Building an Airfoil. Use this procedure for the provided design. Follow the
same steps when making an airfoil of your own design.

Step One 1. Design an airfoil and make a pattern for it. The template is given.
2. Lay the pattern on the balsa wood and cut out five (5) pieces using an
Hint: By taking advantage of the edges of the balsa wood, gluing will be
easier. All pieces must be identical. Smooth the edges of all the pieces.
Stack all 5 pieces and sand smooth together to help ensure they are

Step Two

3. Lay out a strip of paper (4" x 10").

4. Glue down the bottom of all the airfoil pieces 1" apart. Use only a
very thin layer of glue; otherwise drying becomes problematic.
Hint: Place the small end of the airfoil at the edge as shown here.
5. Wait a few minutes to allow glue to set.

Step Three

6. Place glue over the top edge of the airfoil pieces.

7. Bend the strip of paper over the top.

Hint: Glue down a small section at a time and wait for the glue to dry as
you work your way toward the end.

Step Four

Seam must be on the lower end here!

Your completed airfoil should resemble this drawing. Make sure the glue
is dry before testing.