Postprint version. Published in Progress in Aerospace Sciences, Volume 46, Issue 2-3, January 1, 2010, pages 106-115. Copyright © 2010 Progress in Aerospace Sciences. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paerosci.2009.12.001/.
The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has developed an innovative program of experimental research and development on hybrid rocket motors (where the fuel and the oxidizer are in different phases prior to combustion). One project currently underway involves the development of aerospike nozzles for such motors. These nozzles, however, are even more susceptible to throat ablation than regular converging diverging nozzles, due the nature of their flow expansion mechanism. This paper presents the result of a recent development project focused on reducing throat ablation in hybrid rocket motor nozzles. Although the method is specifically targeted at increasing the life and operating range of aerospike nozzles, this paper describes its proof of concept implementation on conventional nozzles. The method is based on a regenerative cooling mechanism that differs in practice from that used in liquid propellant motors. A series of experimental tests demonstrate that this new method is not only effective at reducing damage in the most ablative region of the nozzle, but that the nozzle can survive multiple test runs.