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Liquid Propellant Rocket Concept Design v1.0

Zachary Martinez September 1, 2016


The purpose of this document will be to illustrate what a liquid propellant rocket would look like with some rough dimension estimations. These dimensions will be used to estimate the actual weight of the rocket and more informed figures can be substituted in version 2.0 of this document. All units will be metric units


analysis. This decision is intentionally made at the beginning of the project


avoid strange and unnecessary conversion factors in analysis.



s 2 . All calculations will show 3 significant figure but future calculations are carried out with true values calculated earlier in the document.

regularly accepted value for g 0 will be used of 9.80665


Initial Weight and Thrust Estimates

We will assume that the gross lift off weight or GLOW of the rocket will be 60kg. This number is based on previous rockets that the Missouri S&T Rocket Design team has constructed being anywhere from 20-40kg and scaling up the weight for added complexity. This number will be refined in later versions of the document. To avoid issues with guidance and control the team chose to make it passively stable off the launch rail with a thrust to weight ratio of no less than 6. This means that at launch the thrust need to be:

F = 6m 0 g 0 = 6(60kg)(9.80665 m ) = 3530N



Propulsion System

The team chose to use methanol and liquid oxygen for the fuel and oxidizer respectively. The liquid oxygen was chosen as an oxidizer because of its relatively low price and almost universal use in launch vehicles. Other options for the


oxidizer were HTP(high test peroxide ¿90%) and nitrous oxide. These were considered but seemed to lead to more design challenges than liquid oxygen. Other options for fuels were almost every other hydrocarbon. An alcohol was

chosen because it is miscible with water so if thermal concerns arose they could

be solved by adding water to the fuel at a relatively small hit to specific impulse.

Methanol was chosen among the three common alcohols (methanol, ethanol and isopropyl alcohol) because of its availability, low cost and slightly higher density. A chamber pressure of 1.4MPa was chosen for engine operation because weight is of very high concern on a smaller rocket (many launch vehicle parts scale down poorly such as tanks and the engine) with a high thrust to weight ratio and efficiency is not quite as important. Many similar projects use a chamber pressure of roughly 2MPa and large scale launch vehicles have chamber pressures ranging from 6MPa to 26MPa. For initial design estimates the team assumed the rocket would be optimized for sea level operation. This will change to be optimized for a lower atmospheric pressure if it is determined that the rocket will reach sufficient altitude. Because this project is student run on a tight budget, simplicity is very important. This lead to the decision to use a pressure fed propulsion system. The cooling system for the engine was chosen to be regenerative despite the tighter pressure budget. While other projects have shown that film cooling can be used exclusively this seems to be the exception rather than the norm. Also the relatively low chamber pressure decision means that the design can afford the pressure drop in the cooling channels. Rocket Propulsion Analysis was used to calculate theoretical specific impulse

of this propellant combination at 1.4MPa of 231s at an optimal O/F ratio of

1.242. The software assumes all of the combustion efficiency is 100% and min- imal energy loss in heat transfer to the regenerative fluid. These assumptions normally hold for larger engines but are not necessarily true for smaller ones.

A total efficiency of 90% is assumed as similar projects show values similar to

this in tests. This leads to a specific impulse of 208s.

Mass flow rates

Using the thrust of the rocket and the specific impulse we can calculate the mass flow rate of propellant.

m˙ =



g 0 I s







(208s) = 1.73 kg


The optimum mixture ratio (obtained from Rocket Propulsion Analysis) can be used to calculate the mass flow rates of the liquid oxygen and the methanol. O/F = 1.242

m˙ f + m˙ o = 1.73 kg


m˙ o

m˙ f

= 1.242


m˙ f = .772 kg


m˙ o = .959 kg


Propellant Requirements

The burn of the rocket was chosen to be 10 seconds as a compromise between GLOW and total impulse. If any shorter of a burn time is used the entire propulsion system could be trivially replaced with a solid motor. The other issue encountered however is if the burn time is too long the dry mass is reduced because maximum GLOW is 60kg. The mass of propellant can be calculated as follows

m p = mb˙


The propellant mass and dry mass as a function of burn time is shown in Table 1 below.

Burn Time(s)

Proplellant Mass (kg)

Maximum Dry Mass (kg)
















Table 1: Burn Time

Propellant Tank Requirements

The volume of the propellant tanks can be calculated using the volume of the propellant plus some initial ullage volume of 10% total propellant volume and a residual volume of 3% total propellant volume.

The mass of the liquid oxygen is:

m o = m˙ o b t = .959 kg (10s) = 9.59kg


The mass of the methanol is:

m f = m˙ f b t = .772 kg (10s) = 7.72kg


The density of liquid oxygen is 1141kg/m 3 , and the density of methanol is 792kg/m 3 .


The volume of liquid oxygen is:

v o = m o



= 9.59kg





= 8.41 10 3 m 3

v˙ o = 841 10 6 m 3 /s

The volume of methanol is:

v f = m f



= 7.72kg





= 9.75 10 3 m 3

v˙ ft = 975 10 6 m 3 /s

The volume of the liquid oxygen and methanol tanks accounting for the initial ullage of 10% and residuals of 3% is:

v ot = v o /(.87) = 9.66 10 3 m 3

v ft = v f /(.87) = 11.2 10 3 m 3

Feed System Requirements

To prevent any loose flecks of metal sparking and causing a failure in propellant lines a maximum of 7m/s was suggested on some online forums for similar projects. A lower velocity would also give a lower pressure drop in the feed system leading to a lighter weight tanks and thus a higher propellant mass fraction. The minimum cross sectional area of the feed system to achieve this is:

A f eed =

7m/s = 975 10 6 m 3 /s

v˙ f

7 m


= 139 10 6 m 2

D f eed = 2 139 10 6 m 2


= 13.3 10 3 m

The smallest standard pipe that can be used for this inner diameter is half inch pipe. Aluminum pipe will be used for the feed system because it is compat- ible with liquid oxygen, and it is both cheaper and lighter than stainless pipe. The outer diameter of this pipe is .84” or .0213m.

Pressure Drop



Tank Design

Tank Design The feed system will be external of the tanks for ease of manufacturing and

The feed system will be external of the tanks for ease of manufacturing and safety. The fuel and oxidizer tanks will also not share a common bulk head for similar reasons. To determine the inner radius of the tanks we can take the outer radius and subtract from the figure above. The airframe will use sheet metal for the skin and 4 long structural supports for the main structure. This will allow the thickness of the outer rocket to be relatively low and also make accessing different bays in the rocket easier for assembly and maintenance. We will assume this thickness to be a maximum of 3mm conservatively. The clearance between the feed pipe and the walls of the rocket and the tank will be about 5mm. This means that the tank can have a maximum outer diameter of:

T od = .1 .003 .005 .0213 .005 = 65.7 10 3 m

The thickness of the tank can be calculated by assuming a tank pressure of no more than 2.8MPa:



= σ hoop

Because the feed system is aluminum we will use aluminum for the tanks to minimize thermal expansion difference when LOX is fueled into the tank. Aluminum yeild strength = 55MPa.

t = F OS


σ hoop

= 2 (2.8MP a)(65.7 10 3 m)

55MP a


= 6.69 10 3 m

Tank Weights Pressurant Tank Requirements Pressurant Tank Design and Weights Engine Weight Estimates Recovery Weight Estimates Electronics Weight Estimate Airframe Weight


The total mass of the rocket is TBD. This is different from the orignally assumed GLOW of 60kg. Because of this the propulsion requirements need to be updated in Version 2.0 of this document.