Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Dr. William R. Murray


A labscale hybrid rocket motor test stand has been developed for research at Cal Poly. The primary focus of research using this rig has been the development of regenerative cooling techniques using nitrous oxide as coolant and oxidizer, as well as validation of technologies relating to the annular aerospike nozzle. In order to prevent undesirable deflection of the cantilevered spike, a structural stiffening web, referred to as “The Spider,” is proposed. The Spider resembles a three-spoked wheel, with the aerospike held by the inner hub and the chamber walls abutting the outer radius.

The Spider, placed upstream of the nozzle, is subject to thermal loads due to radiation and convection from the gases, and conduction from the outer annulus, as well as mechanical loads from thermal expansion and gas flow. Simulation tools are developed in three phases to produce an accurate model of the spatio-temporal distribution of these loads.

A prototype of the Spider instrumented with thermocouple probes is designed, manufactured, and subjected to a series of hotfire tests. Results from three experimental runs are gathered and compared to simulated results. Good agreement is shown for the most part between the two datasets, with a single noticeable discrepancy for one measured temperature location. The high fidelity in the mean rate of temperature change for all stations indicates that the convective heat load is accurately modeled.

The simulation results, confirmed by experiment, indicate that in order for the Spider to survive in the steady-state during an actual burn, an active cooling strategy is necessary. Two actively cooled concept designs are presented and discussed, and future avenues of research are suggested.