Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Joseph Mello


A study was undertaken to create a finite element model of a cooled throat converging/diverging rocket nozzle to be used as a tool in designing a cooled aerospike nozzle. Using ABAQUS, a simplified 2D axisymmetric model was created featuring only the copper throat and stainless steel support ring, which were brazed together for the experimental test firings. This analysis was a sequentially coupled thermal/mechanical model. The steady state thermal data matched closely to experimental data. The subsequent mechanical model predicted a life of over 300 cycles using the Manson-Halford fatigue life criteria. A mesh convergence study was performed to establish solution mesh independence.

This model was expanded by adding the remainder of the parts of the nozzle aft of the rocket motor so as to attempt to match the transient nature of the experimental data. This model included variable hot gas side coefficients in the nozzle calculated using the Bartz coefficients and mapped onto the surface of the model using a FORTRAN subroutine. Additionally, contact resistances were accounted for between the additional parts. The results from the preliminary run suggested the need for a parameter re-evaluation for cold side gas conditions. Parametric studies were performed on contact resistance and cold side film coefficient. This data led to the final thermal contact conductance of k=0.005 BTU/s•in.•°R for contact between metals, k=0.001 BTU/s•in.•°R for contact between graphite and metal, and h=0.03235 BTU/s2•in.•°R for the cold side film coefficient. The transient curves matched closely and the results were judged acceptable.

Finally, a 3D sector model was created using identical parameters as the 2D model except that a variable cold side film condition was added. Instead of modeling a symmetric one or two inlet/one or two outlet cooling channel, this modeled a one inlet/one outlet nozzle in which the coolant traveled almost the full 360° around the cooling annulus. To simplify the initial simulation, the model was cut at the barrier between inlet and outlet to form one large sector, rather than account for thermal gradients across this barrier. This simplified nozzle produced expected data, and a 3D full nozzle model was created. The cold side film coefficients were calculated from previous experimental data using a simplified 2D finite difference approach. The full nozzle model was created in the same manner as the 2D full nozzle model. A mesh convergence study was performed to establish solution mesh independence. The 3D model results matched well to experimental data, and the model was considered a useful tool for the design of an oxidizer cooled aerospike nozzle.