ae4S01
29 January 2010
Thermal Rocket Propulsion (version 2.04)
By B.T.C. Zandbergen
i
ii
Foreword
Rocket propulsion (ae4s01) is a 14 week advanced course on rocket propulsion totalling 28 lecture hours of 45 min each. The course is offered at Delft University of Technology (TUDelft), Faculty of Aerospace engineering (LR), to students who have successfully followed the faculty’s undergraduate program. The course has a work load of 120 hours, and earns students 4 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) points.
The course is a direct continuation of the introductory lectures on rocket propulsion given in the second year of the faculty’s curriculum, as part of the course “Space Engineering and Technology II” or its predecessor course “Introduction to space Technology II”. It is considered of interest to students specializing in launcher and satellite technology, but also to students who are interested in using rocket propulsion for aeronautical applications, like for sounding rockets, missiles, and rocket assisted takeoff.
The course aims to provide students with the essential knowledge and insight needed to perform design and analysis of thermal rocket systems. At the start of the lectures, the students should at least have a working knowledge of mathematics (differential equations, and statistics), thermodynamics of fluid flow (Poison equations, enthalpy, entropy), aerodynamics (including both sub and supersonic and viscid and inviscid flow), materials, structures (mostly strength and life of thin shell structures), and systems engineering.
Topics delt with in this course (not necessarily in this order) include:
o 
Rocket propulsion fundamentals: A recap of rocket propulsion applications; Rocket propulsion requirements; The rocket equation; Types of rockets 
o 
Thermal rocket propulsion fundamentals: Important performance parameters including amongst others thrust, impulse, specific impulse, volumetric specific impulse; Dimensioning and sizing rules for rocket systems. 
o 
Ideal thermal rocket: Ideal performances, condi nozzles, nozzle dimensions, overexpansion, underexpansion, optimum thrust, characteristic velocity and thrust coefficient, and quality factors. 
o 
Nozzle design: Types of nozzles, nozzle profile, nozzle divergence, nozzle length, effect of nozzle profile on performance, nozzle structure and materials. 
o 
Propellants and propellant properties: Chemical and nonchemical thermal propellants; Important properties for propellant selection. 
o 
Chemical equilibrium calculations (introduction to program for calculation of chemical equilibrium gas composition and gas properties); Molar mass, specific heat ratio and adiabatic flame temperature calculation for gas mixtures (based on known reaction equation).Chemical equilibrium flow, frozen flow, and chemical kinetics (1/3 law of Coats, Bray approximation). 
o 
Heat transfer: Convection, radiation and conduction, 
o 
Cooling: Thermal insulation, ablation, radiative, film, dump and regenerative cooling; Comparison of cooling methods. 
o 
Liquid rocket engine combustor design: Liquid injection, operating pressure, chamber pressure drop, characteristic length, chamber wall thickness estimation, chamber mass estimation. 
o 
(Quasi) steady state internal ballistics solid and hybrid motors: Solid regression, grain shape, operating pressure, necessary condition(s) for stable operation, pressure sensitivity for initial temperature and change in ‘Klemmung’, and local conditions (flow velocity, pressure, etc.). 
iii
o 
Storage & distribution of liquids. blow down & regulated systems, pressurant mass, pressurant storage, turbopumps, motor cycles, turbine drive gas mass flow. 
o 
Capita Selecta

Ignition: Types of igniters, igniter propellants, igniter energy and pressure, 

ignition duration Motor controls: Thrust magnitude control, thrust vector control, expansion ratio control, mixture ratio control. 
The course material consists of the notes contained in this document, handouts provided in class, and a web site providing homework exercises, supporting design data (amongst others for the verification of the methods presented) and some interesting web links. The latter aim to further support the methods dealt with or provide for background information.
For those students that find the material provided lacking, we recommend:
– Rocket Propulsion Elements, 7th ed., by G.P. Sutton, John Wiley & Sons Inc.: It
introduces the basic principles of rocket propulsion technology, liquid rocket engines, solid rocket motors, electric propulsion, including sections on design of thrust chambers, engine structures, turbopumps, and thrust vector control, and plume
signatures, and with applications to launch vehicles, space flight, satellite flight, and missiles.
– Space Propulsion Analysis and Design, by R.W. Humble, G.N. Henry, W.J.
Larson, McGrawHill Publishers: A really good book if you are into propulsion engineering. It is simply written but has depth for those who need the equations. It gives some good historical guidelines of what has worked in the past so that you don't stray too far. It introduces the reader to the basic thermodynamics of fluid flow and of thermochemical reactions, and provides separate chapters on the dimensioning and sizing of solid, liquid, and hybrid rocket systems but also nuclear and electrical rocket systems. The methods presented not only allow for performance prediction, but also for a preliminary sizing with respect to system mass and size.
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Contents
Foreword 
iii 
Contents 
v 
1. Rocket Propulsion Fundamentals (a recap) 
1 
2. Sizing Fundamentals (a recap) 
19 
3. Thrust and Specific Impulse 
31 
4. Ideal Thermal Rocket Motor 
39 
5. Nozzle Design 
61 
6. Propellants and Propellant Properties 
85 
7. ThermoChemistry 
101 
8. Heat Transfer and Cooling 
141 
9. LRE Combustor Design 
183 
10. Solid Rocket Combustor Design 
207 
11. Hybrid Rocket Combustor Design 
235 
12. Design of Thin Shell Structures 
251 
13. Thrust Chamber Mass 
261 
14. Liquid Propellant Storage 
271 
15. Liquid Propellant Feeding 
301 
16. Ignition 
349 
17. Motor Controls 
373 
Glossary 
383 
Appendices 
387 
v
vi
Rocket propulsion fundamentals
Contents
Contents 
1 
Symbols 
2 
1 General 
3 
2 Rocket equation 
3 
3 Rocket applications 
5 
4 Rocket system requirements 
9 
5 Some important performance parameters 
10 
6 Types of rockets 
15 
7 Problems 
16 
Literature 
17 
Copyright notice:
The figures 3 and 4 have been taken from the ESA web site and have been reproduced with permission of ESA.
Tables 1 and 2 have been taken from: Rocket propulsion Elements”, by G.P. Sutton.
1
Symbols
Roman 

A 
Acceleration 
C _{T} 
Specific propellant consumption 
F 
Thrust 
g _{o} 
Gravitational acceleration at sea level 
I 
Impulse 
I _{s}_{p} 
(Gravimetric) specific impulse 
I _{s}_{s}_{p} 
System specific impulse 
m 
Mass flow 
M 
Mass 
P 
Power 
R 
Vehicle emptytototal mass ratio 
t 
Time 
v 
Flight velocity 
w 
Exhaust velocity 
W 
Weight 
Greek 

Δ 
Increment or change 
η 
Efficiency 
ρ 
Propellant mass density 
Subscripts
f 
Refers to conditions at end of burn 
j 
Rocket exhaust jet or beam 
p 
Propellant 
pros 
Propulsion system 
R 
Rocket 
T 
Thrust 
W 
Power source 
2
1
General
Propulsion is associated with changing the momentum ^{1} of a body via a force acting on this body (action = reaction). The word propulsion is derived from two Latin words:
‘pro’ meaning before or forwards and ‘pellere’ meaning to drive. Its meaning is to push forward or drive an object forward. A propulsion system is a machine or device that produces thrust to push an object forward. There are various ways of changing the momentum of an object. Consider for instance walking, bird flight, driving, and sailing. The way we change momentum depends on the environment (land, water, air and space) we are in. For example in case of land propulsion, we may use wheels to generate the propulsive force through direct contact with the solid earth. For aerospace vehicles, an important means of propulsion is jet propulsion, which acts through the generation of a high velocity exhaust jet. Two types of jet propulsion are generally distinguished:
 
The direct reaction systems and indirect reaction systems, which depend for their action on variation of the momentum of some external medium. In the case of direct reaction systems, the change in momentum of the external medium is purely obtained via energy addition to some medium, like air, ingested. Typical examples of this type of propulsion are a ramjet, and a turbojet. In the case of indirect reaction systems, the change in momentum is obtained via an engine and a propeller. 
 
The pure reaction systems, in which the propulsive effort or thrust is obtained by variation of the momentum of the system itself. These systems do not depend on some external medium for the production of the reaction effort. Rockets are systems of this type. 
In 
rocket systems, the propulsive force (thrust) is generated by expelling mass (initially 
stored in the vehicle) from the vehicle at a high velocity. It differs from other engines in that it carries the mass to be expelled internally, therefore it will work in the vacuum of
space as well as within the Earth's atmosphere.
2 Rocket equation
A change in momentum ΔI of a body can be determined from:
ΔI =
∫
d(M ⋅ v)
 M: body mass
 v: velocity of body.
_{(}_{2}_{}_{1}_{)}
Vice versa, we can use the above relationship to determine the change in momentum needed to accomplish a certain velocity change.
In case mass is constant, we get:
I = M⋅ Δv
_{(}_{2}_{}_{2}_{)}
The change in momentum is accomplished by an external force F (not necessarily constant) which operates on the vehicle for a certain time t _{a} .(action time):
1 The (linear) momentum of a body is defined as the product of its mass times its velocity. It basically relates to linear motion. Analogous we have angular momentum as a measure for rotational motion. The angular momentum of a rigid object is defined as the product of the moment of inertia and the angular velocity.
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t
a
∫
0
F ⋅ dt =
∫
d(M ⋅ v)
(23)
In case of a nonconstant system mass, analysis leads to the ‘rocket equation’ also referred to as ‘Tsiolkowsky equation’, which trades off exhaust velocity with rocket mass fraction. This equation can be derived as follows. Consider a rocket, see figure, with an instantaneous mass M traveling at an instantaneous velocity v and expelling mass ΔM at a constant velocity w relative to the vehicle. Assume no external forces (gravity, drag, etc.) are acting up on the vehicle.
Figure 1: Rocket propulsion principle
Momentum at time t is:
I
_{t} =
M
⋅
v
Idem at time t + Δt:
I
t +Δ
_{t} =
(M
+ Δ
M) (v
⋅
+ Δ
v)
− Δ
M
⋅
(v
−
w)
(24)
(25)
Since there are no external forces working upon the rocket, it follows that the change in momentum is equal to zero.
It follows for the momentum balance:
M⋅ v = (M + ΔM)(⋅ v + Δv)− ΔM⋅(v − w)
_{(}_{2}_{}_{6}_{)}
Elaboration gives (neglecting terms of second order small):
M⋅ Δv + ΔM⋅ w = 0
For an infinitesimal change of velocity we get:
M ⋅ dv = −dM ⋅ w
_{(}_{2}_{}_{7}_{)}
_{(}_{2}_{}_{8}_{)}
Separation of variables and integrating both sides leads to the rocket equation:
Δv = w ln(M _{o} /M)
(Δv) _{e} = w ln(R)
With:
(29)
 M _{o} = initial mass
 M = instantaneous mass
 Δv = Velocity change (follows from orbit analysis)
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 R = M _{o} /M _{f} ; M _{f} = final vehicle mass. It includes payload mass, structure subsystem mass, propulsion subsystem mass as well as the mass of all the other subsystems and the mass of propellants remaining in the vehicle. In practice, empty mass differs from dry mass in that empty mass also includes residual propellant mass (if any).
From this equation, we learn that to achieve certain change in flight velocity using rocket propulsion, it is best to expel the mass at the highest velocity possible. This way the empty mass and initial mass are closest, hence limiting the amount of mass to be expelled overboard. This is illustrated in the next figure.
Exhaust velocity [km/s]
Figure 2: Results from rocket equation for vehicle with empty mass of 400 kg and mission characteristic velocity of 5000 m/s
It is noted though that in the above presented result, we have assumed that we can select the exhaust velocity without any consequence for the mass of the rocket system and hence for the vehicle carrying the rocket what so ever. It will later be shown that in reality this is not the case.
3 Rocket applications
Practical uses of rocket systems as weapons of war, commerce and the peaceful exploration of space are discussed.
An important category of applications of rocket systems is to propel rocket weapons, like missiles and antitank weapons. The main purpose of using rocket propulsion in these systems is to attain high flight velocities in a very short time. Some important differences of rocket propulsion with jet propulsion are given in the Table 1.
An important advantage of rockets is the much higher thrusttoweight (T/W) ratio. This allows to install the same thrust but at lower mass consequences for the total vehicle. This allows for higher acceleration rates. A second advantage is the increased thrust density, which allows to limit the size of the rocket system with about a factor 3 compared to a jet engine. A third advantage is that, because the rocket takes the mass to be expelled within, the thrust is independent of altitude, flight velocity and air temperature. A fourth advantage is that the flight velocity can be much greater than the velocity of the jet exhaust. In contrast, the flight velocity attained with turbojets is limited to maximum 11.5 km/s. The last advantage we mention is that the rocket has
no altitude limitation since next to the fuel, it also carries the oxidizer necessary to burn the fuel. A major disadvantage is the high specific fuel consumption, which leads to a
high propellant
2
mass to be carried on board of the vehicle.
^{2} A rocket propellant generally consists of a fuel and an oxidizer.
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Table 1: Rocket advantages over turbojet propulsion
Feature 
Rocket engine or rocket 
Turbojet engine 

motor 

T/W, typical Specific fuel/propellant consumption Thrust density Thrust versus altitude 
75:1 
5:1 

0,81,4 kg/(Nhr) 
0,050,15 kg/(Nhr) 

375000 N/m ^{2} Nearly constant 
125000 N/m ^{2} Decreases with increasing altitude Decreases with increasing flight velocity Decreases with increasing air temperature Flight velocity always less than exhaust velocity 1417 km 

Thrust 
versus flight velocity 
Nearly constant 

Thrust versus air temperature 
Constant 

Flight velocity versus exhaust velocity 
Unrelated; flight velocity can be greater 

Altitude limitation 
None; suited to space 
travel
Adapted from: Rocket Propulsion Elements
The second important application area is for space launchers, where we require high flight velocities (in excess of 7.8 km/s), but also operation at high flight altitudes well above 1417 km and high thrust levels to overcome gravity. Important tasks are to provide propulsion for accelerated flight (ascent flight), reentry flight (braking), and flight sustenance, but also for attitude control as well as for stage separation and propellant settling.
For illustration, the European Ariane 5 space rocket launcher is capable of lifting a payload of about 40 ton into a low Earth orbit or 6.8 ton payload into geostationary transfer orbit. To do so, the launcher has 3 stages; a large core stage (main stage) with attached to it two booster rockets and a smaller core stage on top of the main one. The two large booster rockets assist the core stage during the initial launch phase, which takes about 130 s. After burnout of the two boosters, they are separated from the main core stage, which continues the ascent flight. After burnout of the main core stage after about 590 s in flight, this stage is separated and the second core stage takes over bringing the payload to its intended launch orbit. Total launcher mass at liftoff is about 746 ton of which 642 ton is propellant. The main stage is powered by a single rocket engine (Vulcain), which engine provides for both main vehicle thrust as well as launcher vehicle yaw and pitch control. It produces 1145 kN of vacuum thrust and has a nominal burn time of 590 s. Total stage mass is ~170 tons and maximum propellant mass is ~155 tons (130 tons oxidizer and 25 tons fuel). Stage length and diameter is 29 m and 5.4 m, respectively.
Figure 3: Ariane 5 launch vehicle (Courtesy ESA/ESTEC)
The large booster rockets each provide thrust for about 130 s. During this time each booster provides a total impulse of 4.6 x 10 ^{8} Ns. Thrust at liftoff is 5.5 MN, which reduces to about 4.0 MN at 3555s to minimize aerodynamic loads. Maximum thrust is ~6 MN. The thrust tails off after 75 s to limit maximum launcher acceleration down to 3.5 g _{o} . The 2 ^{n}^{d} core stage is propelled by a single rocket engine (Aestus) producing 27.5 kN of thrust. Total propellant mass is 9. 7 tons stored in 4 propellant tanks. The EPS stage is spin stabilised. Its attitude control system consists of six thrusters that
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deliver a thrust of 400 N each. Of these 6 thrusters two are used for spinup and two for spindown. The remaining two are to allow tilting the spin axis.
A third important area is spacecraft applications, where we require propulsion for orbit transfer, orbit acquisition / trim, repositioning, deorbit, plane changes, etc. This requires not only high flight velocities (of the order of several km/s), but also to achieve this high flight velocity in a vacuum environment. In addition, spacecraft may use rocket propulsion for:
 Orbit stabilisation or “station keeping” to compensate for disturbing forces like drag, solar wind, etc.
 Attitude control to perform 3axis or spin stabilisation, to change the attitude of the S/C or to compensate for disturbing torques e.g. precession of spin axis
 Other: Spinup/down, discharging/unloading of reaction or momentum wheels (typically every few days), stage separation, propellant settling to compact the bubbling propellant inside the tank, etc.
The next figure shows some features of the rocket propulsion system on a specific spacecraft.
Figure 4: Ulysses rocket system features (courtesy ESA/ESTEC)
The system includes eight rocket motors that provide spin control and axial and radial delta v control. In addition, it includes a propellant storage tank and the pipes and valves necessary to regulate propellant flow from the tank to the thrusters. Instrumentation includes pressure transducers and temperature sensors. The tank is a titanium alloy shell containing hydrazine and nitrogen pressure gas separated by a membrane. Total tank volume is about 45 liters. Filters are included to filter the propellant flowing to the thruster blocks.
Rocket applications are also found in:
 Sounding rockets
 Amateur rockets
 Ejection seats
 Rocket assisted take off (JATO or Jet Assisted Take Off): Actually a rocket that is used to give heavy military transport planes an extra "push" for taking off from short airfields.
 Race cars: The world's first rocket car, the RAK2 was unveiled in 1928 by Opel. On May 23, 1928, the RAK2 was unveiled to a crowd of 3,000 people in Berlin, Germany. The car * without an engine or gears * was powered by 24 rockets and 120 kilograms of explosives. Driven by Fritz von Opel, the grandson of Opel founder Adam Opel, the crowd watched the car reach a high speed of 230 kilometres per hour in two kilometres. Rocket powered quarter mile race cars
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were the fastest type of race track vehicle ever built. Those cars had so much 'direct thrust' power that they could beat any conventional or jet powered racer from point A to point B, known as elapsed time. The miles per hour shown at the end of a run are interesting, but inconsequential. However, a car called 'VANISHING POINT' was reputed to have been driven at well over 640 kmph (400 mph) in the quarter mile.
 Gasgenerators: Micro gas generators are used as airbag inflators. Other generators can be used to drive or start up a gas turbine
All rocket propelled vehicles are equipped with one or more rockets (referred to as primary propulsion system) that allow(s) for adjusting the linear momentum. Some vehicles also have rockets (referred to as secondary propulsion system) that allow for 3axis or spin stabilisation. The table 2 provides an overview of typical characteristics for a number of primary and secondary propulsion applications.
Table 2: Characteristics of some rocket propulsion applications (adapted from [Sutton])
Besides providing for the necessary thrust, these systems also bring some side effects. For example for Ariane 5, the propulsion system:
 Increases mass: To bring about 7 ton of payload into orbit, we require a giant rocket. Ariane 5 consists for about 80% of propellant (642 ton out of a total of 746 ton) and a structure to contain the propellant and to resist the launch loads.
 Increases size (volume): To store 642 ton of propellant requires a large volume.
For instance to store 642 ton of water requires 642 m
cylinder of length 50 m and diameter 4 m. For the Ariane 5 using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the density of the propellant is about 4 times lower than for
water, so the effect is even more prominent.
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which comes down to a
 Increases cost: Ariane 5 propulsion system makes up about 5070% of total launch cost. The latter stands at about 120 million Euros;
 Decreases reliability: 59% of all launch failures are caused by the propulsion system;
 Effects schedule: Initial development of Ariane 5 started in 1984 with actual development starting in 1987. First flight took place in 2000
 Effects operations: To launch Ariane 5, a launch base is required in a remote place (Kourou). Launch preparations take about 1 month including preparing and mating of the various launcher stages and the payload in special buildings and
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the transfer to the actual launch site on a big crawler, where the launcher is fuelled up, ready for count down.
 Etc.
For spacecraft we typically find that about 30% of spacecraft mass, 17% of all onorbit spacecraft failures, and 58% of spacecraft cost are due to the propulsion subsystem.
4 Rocket system requirements
Each of the applications mentioned in the previous section requires different performances of the rocket system to be used. Typical requirements stemming from
the various applications include propulsive requirements which define ‘how well’ the propulsive tasks must be performed. These are typically specified in terms of:
 Number and type of maneuvers. Typical maneuvers include boost, flight sustenance, trajectory/orbit correction (e.g. drag compensation), slew, 3axis control, spin control, etc.
 Size of maneuvers for spacecraft, typically given in required velocity change or Δv: For typical values of Δv for a number of space propulsion tasks, see propulsion web site or [Fortescue and Stark].
 Acceleration level (if needed as a function of time): Acceleration generally is bounded to minimum and maximum values:
o 
Minimum acceleration is required e.g. to compensate for disturbing forces (e.g. gravity, solar radiation, atmospheric drag), limit gravitational losses (see section on “Launch vehicle trajectories”), and to limit flight duration. 
Typical minimum values for launchers are 1.2 – 1.3 g _{o} . For satellites using an impulsive shot approach, the thrust duration shall not exceed about 3% of the flight duration. For example, the typical duration of a LEOGEO Hohman transfer orbit is about 5½ hour. This then limits the thrust duration at perigee to maximum about 10 minutes for a velocity change of the order of 2.46 km/s. For a 1000 kg satellite, this requires a minimum acceleration of 4.1 m/s ^{2} . Minimum value is needed to allow reaching the final vehicle velocity within a limited time; 

o 
Maximum acceleration is of importance e.g. to limit structural mass, to limit the loads on the crew of a manned vehicle and for microgravitation research. Typical maximum accelerations are: 
Launchers: 46 g _{o} ; Sounding rockets: up to 15 g
Microgravitation research: 10 ^{}^{4}  10 ^{}^{5} g _{o} .
o ;
From acceleration levels, we typically derive requirements concerning thrust magnitude. These requirements may be different for different flight phases (boost phase, sustain phase).
 Minimum impulse bits, i.e. smallest change in momentum required to allow for e.g. fine attitude and orbit control of spacecraft.
 Cycle life, i.e. a number representing the number of on/off cycles or reignitions that the system must be capable of.
 Pulse duty cycle: Duration of a pulse versus time in between two pulses. This parameter is usually expressed as a percentage (%).
 Etc.
Other requirements include:
 Mass. It is obvious that the mass of the rocket system shall be as low as possible as in that case the payload mass is maximized.
 Size. The payload envelope of the launcher selected dictates the size of the spacecraft. Hence, it also restricts the size of the rocket system. A small rocket system may allow selecting a smaller and hence cheaper launch vehicle.
 Electrical power usage. The more power a rocket system uses the more power is needed from the power supply system. This then increases the mass and the size of this vehicle subsystem.
 Configuration requirements that concern e.g. the mounting of the thruster. For example to provide full 3axis control, we need to be able to produce torques about 3 perpendicular axes. This may require different thrusters to stop/start the
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rotational motion. Other configuration requirements may concern the mounting of the thrusters. For example, it may be required that the thruster is canted to direct the hot exhaust away from the spacecraft.
 Storage life and operational life. Launcher missions are typically short duration missions that do not require long operation times (a few minutes). Deep space missions on the other hand may require long operation times of several hours just to prevent too high acceleration loads. Since deep space missions take several years to accomplish, storage life for rocket systems may also be of the order of years.
 Reliability or the probability that a system functions successfully over a specific time period.
 Safety (hazardousness): Common hazards that should be safeguarded against are corrosion, fire, and explosion/detonation: Class 1.1 is catastrophic failure which evidences detonation, and class 1.3 is catastrophic failure which evidences fire and explosion, not detonation), and health hazards (toxicity of propellants).
 Working environment: On ground, in space or other.
As well as constraints with respect to cost, structural loads, thrust misalignment; thrust
offset, thrust magnitude accuracy, development time, environmental load, maximum/minimum operation/storage temperature, etc.
The next table gives some specific requirements as used for the Ariane 5 booster rockets.
Table 3: Ariane 5 booster rocket requirements (IAF85173)
Parameter 
Value 
Total impulse capability Thrust 
4.6 x 10 ^{8} Ns Liftoff thrust 5.5 MN; Reduced thrust of about 4.0 MN at 3555s to minimize aerodynamic loads; Thrust tailoff after 75 s to limit maximum acceleration to 3.5 g. Yes, to limit effects of thrust imbalance High (manrated mission) 
TVC capability 

Reliability 

Cost 
Low recurrent (manufacturing/production) cost Segmented design to allow transportation from Europe to Kourou Limited to allow attachment to core stage 1 
Transportability 

Length Number of missions 
5 Some important performance parameters
5.1 Rocket thrust
An important parameter is the thrust delivered, as it determines the acceleration that can be achieved.
From the momentum balance eq. (26) an expression can be obtained for rocket thrust. Dividing the momentum balance by Δt and taking the limit for Δt → 0 gives:
lim
Δ →
t
0
M ⋅ 
Δ v 
+ 
Δ M 
⋅ 
w 
= 
M 
⋅ 
dv 
− 
m 
⋅ 
w 

Δ 
t 
Δ 
t 
dt 
= 0
Here m is mass flow rate (m = dM/dt).
Rewriting the equation (51) gives:
10
(51)
M ⋅
dv
dt
=
m
⋅
w
(52)
This equation resembles the classical 2 ^{n}^{d} law of Newton:
With:
M
F
dv
⋅
dt
= F
= m ⋅ w
(53)
^{(}^{5}^{}^{4}^{)}
We now refer to the force F as the thrust force (hereafter shortly referred to as thrust). It is defined as the product of mass flow rate m and exhaust velocity w (relative to the vehicle).
Some missions require that the thrust is controllable for example to allow reducing acceleration loads towards the end of the flight, when the propellant tanks are almost empty. Good measures for thrust control capability of a rocket system are:
 Throttling capability or Thrust Magnitude Control (TMC): The capability to control/change the thrust of an individual rocket motor given as a ‘percentage’ (%) of nominal thrust. For example, a throttling capability of 50% means that the thrust can be reduced to 50% of its nominal value;
 Thrust Vector Control (TVC): The capability to change the thrust direction for an individual rocket motor expressed in ‘degrees’ (deg). Three rotation directions can be distinguished usually taken relative to the nominal position of a suitable body axis system. The rotations are 1 about the nozzle axis (roll direction), 1 up and down (pitch direction), and 1 left and right (yaw direction).
5.2 Specific propellant consumption
As for jet engines it may be wise to consider the propellant consumption per unit of thrust produced. This is usually referred to as the specific propellant consumption. However, since mass flow may change during the mission, it is better to use some average specific propellant consumption (C _{T} ) defined as the ratio of propellant weight consumed and total impulse delivered:
C
T
=
M
p
⋅
g
o
t
a
∫ F
o
⋅ dt
(55)
It is typically expressed in kg/Nhr (see e.g. Table 1 in ‘Rocket Propulsion Fundamentals’. For constant mass flow, it follows:
C
T
=
M
p
⋅
g
o
g
o
=
t
a
∫
o
F
⋅
dt
w
(56)
Hence to reduce specific propellant consumption, we should strive for a high exhaust velocity.
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5.3
Action time
Once we know the total impulse to be delivered by a rocket system and the thrust, the action time of the system can be determined from:
t
a
∫
0
F ⋅ dt =
∫
d(M ⋅ v)
(57)
In case of a constant thrust and (expellant/propellant) mass flow rate, it follows:
t
a =
M
(58)
With M _{p} is total expellant/propellant mass (from eq. (29)):
M
p
=
M
e
⋅
(
e
(
Δ
v / w)
−
1
)
=
M
o
⋅
(
1
−
e
−
(
Δ
v / w)
)
(59)
So propellant mass and action time can be determined when either initial or empty mass of the vehicle is known.
In case of a constant acceleration (a), operation time can simply be determined from:
t a
= Δ
5.4 Total impulse
(510)
By exerting a thrust on an object (spacecraft, missile, etc.) a rocket system causes the object to change its momentum. The longer the rocket system thrusts, the larger the change in momentum of the body accomplished. The product of force and the time period over which the force is applied is referred to as the impulse (I):
I
=
t
a
∫
0
F
⋅
dt
=
t
a
∫
0
m
⋅
w
⋅
_{d}_{t}
For constant exhaust velocity, it follows:
I
=
w
⋅
t
a
∫
0
m
⋅
_{d}_{t}
(511)
(512)
In case the action time is taken to be sum of all time periods that the rocket is active, we find for the total impulse delivered by the rocket propulsion system:
I
tot
=
F
⋅
t
a
=
M
p
⋅
w
(513)
Hence, the total impulse (I _{t}_{o}_{t} ) or total change in momentum that can be accomplished by a rocket system follows from propellant mass and exhaust velocity.
To increase the total impulse delivered by a rocket propulsion system, we must either increase the thrust or the action time. From eq. (513) it than follows that either the propellant mass (M _{p} ) or the velocity (w) at which this mass is expelled must increase.
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5.5
System (gravimetric) specific impulse
The best propulsion system is generally that system which delivers the requested total impulse for the lowest propulsion system mass. An important (not much used) measure of the quality of the propulsion system is the system specific impulse defined as the impulse delivered per unit propulsion system weight:
With:
I ssp
=
I
I
=
W
ps
M
ps
⋅ g
o
(514)
 M _{p}_{s} : propulsion system mass which includes both the mass of the propulsion hardware and the propellant mass;
 W _{p}_{s} : propulsion system weight;
 g _{o} : gravitational acceleration at sea level.
System specific impulse is typically expressed in seconds ^{3} ; The higher the system specific impulse, the better the performance of the system. Note that if we use the system specific impulse to select the best propulsion system, we assume that changing the propulsion system has a negligible effect on vehicle mass.
5.6 Propellant (gravimetric) specific impulse
Another, much more used ^{4} , performance parameter is the specific impulse. It is a measure of how much impulse is produced divided by the (propellant) weight that the rocket spends:
I sp
=
I
t
a
∫ F
0
⋅ dt
=
W
p
g
o
⋅
t
a
∫
0
m
⋅
dt
(515)
The higher the specific impulse, typically expressed in seconds, the less mass needs to be expelled to produce a given amount of thrust, so the less massive the rocket has to be. Again we note that some rocket scientists divide by mass instead by weight thereby expressing specific impulse in meters/second rather than in seconds.
At constant mass flow and exhaust velocity, we find:
I sp
=
t 
a 

∫ 
F 
⋅ dt 
t 

0 
= 
m 
⋅ w 
⋅ 
a 
= 
w 

t a t m ⋅ 
a 
⋅ 
g 
o 
g 
o 

g 
o 
⋅ 
∫ 0 
m 
⋅ 
dt 

(516)
This shows that to maximize the specific impulse, we should strive for maximum exhaust velocity. This is the same result as follows from the rocket equation. It differs from the system specific impulse in that the effect of a change in propulsion system dry mass (total system mass minus propellant mass) is neglected.
^{3} Some rocket scientists define the specific impulse as total impulse divided by mass (not weight). In that case, specific impulse is expressed in meters/second.
Specific impulse is much more used than system specific impulse, because most rocket systems used today are chemical rockets. Characteristic for chemical rockets is that propellant mass forms the majority of the system mass. In addition, we find that differences in dry mass for the various chemical systems exist, but in most cases are not significant.
^{4}
13
Comparing eq. (56) and (516), we find that the specific impulse is identical to the reciprocal value of the average specific propellant consumption (C _{T} ):
I
sp
=
1
C
T
(517)
This shows that maximizing specific impulse is identical to minimizing the specific propellant consumption.
5.7 Volumetric specific impulse
A 
good measure for the size of a rocket system is the volumetric specific impulse (I _{ρ} ). 
It 
is defined as the total impulse delivered per unit of propellant volume: 
Error! Objects cannot be created from editing field codes.
(518)
The higher I _{ρ} , the smaller the propellant storage and hence the spacecraft; High volumetric specific impulse requires high specific impulse and a dense propellant. Nowadays, the volumetric specific impulse is not used very often. Rather one uses simply propellant density.
5.8 Input power, jet power and energy
The power required to obtain a desired thrust is given by the jet power, sometimes referred to as beam power or thrust power (ESA). Jet power (P _{J} ) is defined as the kinetic power in the jet. It is related to rocket thrust and exhaust velocity by an expression of the form:
P
J
= 1/ 2 ⋅F ⋅ w = 1/ 2 ⋅ m ⋅ w
2
(519)
Rockets require high power. For example, a rocket with a thrust of 100 N and an exhaust velocity of 3000 m/s already has a beam power of 150 kW.
The efficiency with which the thruster converts input power into jet power is indicated by the thrust efficiency (η _{T} ). It is defined as the total jet power divided by the total power provided by the power source (P _{W} ):
η
T =
P
j
P
W
(520)
The higher the thrust efficiency, the less power is needed by the propulsion system to produce a certain jet power. This parameter is of special interest when designing rocket systems with a separate power system.
Taking thrust and exhaust velocity constant in time (constant mass flow), it follows for the total amount of energy required:
E
=
1/ 2
⋅
F
⋅
t
a
⋅
w
1/ 2
⋅
M
p
⋅
w
2
=
η
η
14
(521)
The mechanical power provided by the rocket is given by:
P
mech
Fv
=⋅=
_{m}_{w}_{v}
⋅
⋅
(522)
Here v is the rocket’s (instantaneous) flight velocity. Notice that the mechanical power provided increases with flight velocity.
The power provided by the rocket should be transferred into mechanical power. A measure of how efficient this occurs is given by the rocket efficiency. It can be calculated from:
η
R
= 
F 
⋅ 
v 

1
⋅
2

m 
⋅ 
( 
v − 
w 
) 
2 
Fv +⋅ 
(523)
Here the term (vw) gives the absolute velocity with which the jet is exhausted. So the first term in the denominator is the absolute kinetic power in the exhaust jet. It can be shown that the rocket efficiency has a maximum value when flight velocity equals the relative jet velocity. It can also be shown that even at high flight velocity (much higher than the (relative) jet velocity) efficiency remains in excess of 0% (unlike for e.g. air breathing jet engines).
5.9 Pulse related parameters
The final performance parameters introduced here all relate to the pulse characteristics (on/off switching) of a rocket system. We mention:
 Impulse bit: Change in momentum per pulse.
 Minimum impulse bit: Smallest achievable impulse bit.
 Duty cycle: Nominal (single) burn time of a motor expressed in ‘second’ (s).
 Cycle life: Number representing the number of on/off cycles that a pulsed thruster is able to operate.
 Pulse duty cycle: Duration of a pulse versus time in between two pulses expressed as a ‘percentage’ (%).
 Thrust rise time: Time it takes for the system to go from zero thrust to full thrust.
 Thrust tail off time: Time it takes for the system to go from full thrust to zero thrust.
6 Types of rockets
Various types of rocket systems are distinguished based on how the expelled mass is accelerated to a high velocity:
a) Thermal acceleration, in which the enthalpy of the expellant is increased and converted into a high velocity jet via a nozzle.
b) Electrostatic acceleration, in which thrust is derived from the direct acceleration of
positively, charged propellant ions or colloids by an electric field.
c) Electrodynamic acceleration, in which crossed electric and magnetic fields induce a Lorentz force in plasma.
The various methods lead to differences in attainable exhaust velocity and thrust levels, see tables 4 and 5 taken in part from [Fortescue and Stark, 2003]:
Table 4: Typical attainable exhaust velocities
Propulsion type
Exhaust velocity
(km/s)
Thermal
Electrostatic
Electrodynamic
1 – 20 5 – 100 5 – 100
15
Table 5: Typical attainable thrust levels
Propulsion type
Thrust acceleration (g _{o} )
Thermal 
0.110 
Electrostatic and electrodynamic 
10 ^{}^{3} 10 ^{}^{5} 
From these tables, we learn that thermal acceleration allows for limited exhaust velocity, but also for high thrust levels. In contrast, electrostatic and electrodynamic acceleration allows for high exhaust velocity, but limited thrust levels. Furthermore, the electrostatic and electrodynamic devices are much more complex to engineer than thermal systems. It is because of the relative simplicity of thermal rockets, and their high thrust levels that thermal rockets are the main type of rocket system in use for both space and earth applications including space launcher applications. Over time, it is expected that slowly electrostatic and electrodynamic devices will take over some space applications now performed by thermal systems. We mention drag compensation, and ultrafine attitude control, but also deep space travel.
7
Problems
1) 
A (perigee) kick stage is being designed to boost a satellite from LEO to GEO with 

a maximum acceleration of 1g _{o} . The ΔV is 1.83 km/s. You have selected for this kick stage a rocket system capable of expelling mass at a velocity w of 3000 m/s. The empty mass of the stage including payload is 1000 kg. What mass of propellant should be loaded into this stage? Determine also maximum achievable thrust, minimum operation time and total impulse. You should consider both constant and variable thrust operation. 

2) 
Idem in case the mass is expelled at a constant velocity of 30,000 m/s. 

3) 
From literature, we learn that the Ariane 5 main stage has a flight operation time of 600s. It is estimated that during this time the stage produces a (flight) average thrust of 1000 kN with a (flight) average specific impulse of 400 s. Stage dry mass 

is 
12000 kg. You are asked to determine for this system: exhaust velocity (w), jet 

power (P _{j} ), total impulse (I), propellant mass flow rate (m) and total mass (M _{p} ) and volume (V _{p} ) of the propellant carried on board of the Ariane 5 main stage as well as thrusttoweight (T/W) ratio at takeoff, stage dry mass to total stage mass ratio 

(α) and system specific impulse (I _{s}_{s}_{p} ). For propellant density, you may use a value 

of 
333 kg/m ^{3} . 

4) 
According to [Humble], the following characteristics apply to the USA developed Nerva 2 thermonuclear rocket engine: 

Thrust: 334.061 kN 

Specific impulse: 825 s 

Burn time: 1200 s 

Thermal input power: 1570 MW 

Engine mass: 10138 kg 
Calculate for this engine:
a) Jet power;
b) total impulse;
c) propellant mass flow rate;
d) thrust efficiency;
e) engine thrusttoweight ratio.
16
_{5}_{)}
In case we replace the single HM60 engine of the Ariane 5 cryogenic main stage by 3 Nerva 2 engines, each with an identical burn time as for the HM60, calculate:
a) the new total propellant mass that should be carried on board of the main stage. You may neglect any change to the stage dry mass (for example due to a change in total engine mass).
b) the propellant volume when assuming that the density of the liquid hydrogen used is 70 kg/m ^{3} .
References
1) 
Fortescue P, and Stark J., Spacecraft systems engineering, 3 ^{r}^{d} edition, Chapter 6.1, Chapter 6.2 (introductory part only), and Chapter 6.4 (introductory part and section 6.4.2). 
2) 
Sutton G.P., Rocket Propulsion Elements, 7 ^{t}^{h} edition, John Wiley & Sons Inc. 
3) 
Timnat Y.M., and van der Laan F.H., Chemical Rocket Propulsion, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands, 1985. 
4) 
IAF85173, 1985. 
5) 
Humble R.W., Henry G.N., and Larson W.J., Space Propulsion Analysis and Design, revised edition, ISBN 0070313202, McGrawHill, 1995. 
17
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18
Sizing fundamentals
Contents
Symbols 
20 
1 General layout of rocket systems and classification 
21 
2 Rocket (propulsion) system mass breakdown 
22 
3 Sizing fundamentals 
23 
4 Rocket staging 
28 
5 Problems 
28 
Literature 
29 
19
Symbols
Roman 

g _{o} 
Gravitational acceleration at sea level 
I 
Impulse 
I _{s}_{p} 
(Gravimetric) specific impulse 
I _{s}_{s}_{p} 
System specific impulse 
I _{t}_{o}_{t} 
Total impulse 
m 
Mass flow 
M 
Mass 
P 
Power 
t 
Time 
v 
Flight velocity 
V 
Volume 
w 
Exhaust velocity 
Greek 

α 
Mass fraction 
1/α _{W} 
Specific power 
Δ 
Increment or change 
1/ε 
Specific energy 
η 
Thrust efficiency 
ρ 
Propellant mass density 
Subscripts
dry 
Refers to rocket system excluding propellants 
f 
Refers to conditions at end of burn 
F 
Feed system 
in 
Input 
j 
Rocket exhaust jet or beam 
net 
Net 
o 
Initial conditions 
opt 
Optimum 
p 
Propellant 
pros 
Propulsion system 
s 
Vehicle system excluding propulsion system and propellant 
S 
Propellant storage subsystem 
T 
Thrust generating subsystem 
W 
Power or energy subsystem 
20
1
General layout of rocket systems and classification
The major components of any rocket system and therefore also thermal rocket system are (figure 1):
a) Expellant or propellant, which forms the mass to be expelled;
b) Thrust generating (thruster) or accelerator system wherein the propellant is accelerated to a high exhaust velocity;
c) Feed and storage system that stores the expellant prior to its use and feeds the expellant to the (set of) accelerator(s);
d) Energy or power source that provides the energy/power necessary for thrust generation;
e) Control system that controls the working of the rocket and allows for adjusting the thrust of the accelerator(s);
f) Frame to hold the components.
Propellant /
expellant
storage
Energy/power source
Figure 1: Rocket system schematic
Exhaust jet
An important distinction in thermal rockets is after the type of energy source used and how this is converted into useful energy. We distinguish systems that:
a) Carry the energy source within (internal energy source), like chemical (chemical rockets) and nuclear sources (nuclear rockets), and
b) Obtain the energy from some external source like the Sun or from a controlled
remote laser or microwave source. Internal energy systems of course are much more independent from their environment than external energy systems, but may suffer from a high mass, since also the energy source must be carried. On the other hand, even when not carrying the energy source on board, we should take into account that the onboard energy collection and conversion system may contribute heavily to the propulsion system mass. An overview of the various thermal rockets distinguished is given in the figure 2.
Figure 2: Thermal rocket types
The different energy sources used lead to differences in exhaust velocity and thrust acceleration levels.
21
2
Rocket (propulsion) system mass breakdown
A rocket propulsion system usually is part of some higher order system, i.e. the
vehicle. Apart from the rocket propulsion system, the vehicle includes amongst others
a structural and a thermal system, an avionics system, and an electrical power
system. Hereafter, we focus on the mass of the rocket propulsion system only and will
assume that any change in rocket propulsion system mass has no effect on the mass
of the other vehicle systems what so ever.
The mass of the rocket (propulsion) system usually is divided into the propellant mass and the system dry mass:
(
MMM
ps
=
p
+
ps
)
dry
(2.1)
System dry mass sometimes is also referred to as inert mass. This mass is composed
of the mass contributions of the individual system components, see the previous
section:
With:




M
M _{W} :
M
M
_{T} :
_{F}
_{S}
:
:
(
M
ps
)
dry
MM
=+
T
W
MM
++
F
S
Mass of thrust generating subsystem
Mass of power subsystem
Mass of propellant feed subsystem
Mass of propellant storage subsystem
(2.2)
To express the significance of the dry mass on total rocket system mass we use the net mass fraction. This fraction is defined by the ratio of rocket system dry mass to total rocket system mass.
α
net
=
(
M
ps
)
dry
M ps
(2.3)
The significance of the propellant mass is given by the propellant mass fraction ^{1} , which gives the ratio of propellant mass to total motor mass:
α
=
M
^{p}
p M
ps
(2.4)
Another important characteristic is the dry mass to propellant mass ratio α:
Note that since
M
ps
= M
p
(
+ M
ps
α =
^{)} dry
α net
α =
:
α
p
(
M
ps
)
dry
∧
M
p
α
net
=
1
−α
p
(2.5)
(2.6)
The table 1 gives an overview of typical ranges for the net mass fraction of chemical systems.
^{1} The term weight factor is used in [van der Laan and Timnat]. However, currently, the term mass fraction is more common.
22
Table 1: Typical net mass fractions for specific chemical rocket systems
System 
Net mass fraction 
Solid rockets 
 Upper stage motors

Booster stages
Liquid rockets
0.050.12
0.1150.167
 Cryogenic rocket stages 
0.060.2 

 Storable propellant rocket stages 
0.050.35 

 Satellite AOCS systems 

o 
Regulated systems 
0.020.15 
o 
Blowdown systems 
0.100.35 
Typical net mass fractions of thermal systems with separate energy/power source can be deduced from table 3.
3 Sizing fundamentals
In this section we discuss sizing fundamentals of chemical systems (with integrated powerplant) and systems ^{2} with a separate powerplant.
From the rocket equation, we have learned that when propulsion system dry mass is negligibly small; we should strive for maximum exhaust velocity. In reality, however, the dry mass of the propulsion system is usually not negligibly small, see the previous section.
To determine the effect of dry system mass on propellant mass, we will discuss two different cases, being systems for which the dry system mass scales linearly with expellant mass, and systems with a separate powerplant.
3.1 Dry mass linearly dependent on expellant mass
For solid rocket motors, we find that dry mass varies about linearly with propellant mass, see figure:
α
=
(
M
ps
)
dry
M
p
=
constant
(3.1)
The equation indicated in the figure relates motor dry mass (indicated as y) to propellant mass (indicated as x). From this equation, we find α = 0.1585.
^{2} The word system is used in this text to denote the rocket propulsion system, i.e. also referred to as the rocket, only and not for example the spacecraft or space launcher in full.
23
0 100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 500,000 600,000
Propellant mass [kg]
Figure 3: Dry mass to propellant mass solid rocket motors/stages
The linear relation can be explained by that for solid rocket motors next to the propellant mass the mass of the casing, which holds the propellant, and the liner that lines the propellant on the outside together make up the majority of the dry system mass. This is illustrated in table 2 for the minuteman solid rocket motor. It can be argued that both the mass of the casing and the liner scale with the amount of propellant.
Table 2: Mass characteristics first stage Minuteman missile [Sutton]
Mass 
[kg] 
Total mass Total inert Mass at burnout Propellant Motor Case Nozzle Insulation Liner Igniter Miscellaneous 
22929 
2141 

1934 

20789 

1160 

402 

428 

68 

12 

71 
In the figure 1, we have also indicated the standard deviation about the estimate as an indication of the accuracy of the relationship. As such, it explains in part for the range indicated in Table 1 for solid rocket motors.
To evaluate the effect of dry system mass on the total propellant mass needed, we substitute this linear relation between dry mass and propellant mass in the rocket equation. This gives:
V
Δ=
V
Δ=
w
w
⋅
⋅
24
ln
ln
⎞ ⎟
⎠
(3.2)
⎛⎞
⎜⎟
⎝⎠
Δ
v
MMe
p
=
e
⋅
w
−=
1
(
M
s
+
(
MM =
ps
+α
⎛⎞
⎜⎟
⎝⎠
Δ
v
Me1
p
⋅
w
−
)
(
M
=
ps
)
dry
)
⋅
⎛⎞ ⎜⎟ e − 1 ⎝⎠
M
Δ
v
w
⎛⎞
s ⎜⎟ e1 −
⎝⎠
Δ
v
w
⎛
⎜
⎜ ⎝
1
⎛
−α⋅⎜
⎝
Δ v
e1 −
w
⎞⎞
⎟⎟ ⎟
⎠⎠
⋅
(3.3)
Here M _{o} is total vehicle mass at start, M _{e} is empty vehicle mass, and M _{s} is vehicle dry mass minus dry mass of the propulsion system:
M
s
=
(
MM
f
pros
)
dry
(3.4)
In the next figure some results are given for a representative vehicle and a mission characteristic at two different net mass fractions.
Exhaust velocity [km/s]
α = 0
α = 0,15
Figure 4: Vehicle (launch) mass versus exhaust velocity for two values of the net mass fraction (empty vehicle mass is 400 kg, mission characteristic velocity is 1800 m/s).
The figure shows that with increasing net mass fraction also the launch mass increases. This is mainly due to a higher propellant load. The mass of the propulsion system itself should be discounted from the empty vehicle mass. The figure also shows that when we have a linear relation between the dry mass of the propulsion system and the propellant mass, we still should strive to maximize the exhaust velocity.
3.2 Dry mass linearly dependent on power output power source
From the next table, it might be argued that for thermal rockets using a separate energy/power source the dry mass of the propulsion subsystem is dominated by the mass of the power source:
(
M
pros
)
25
dry
≈
M
W
(3.5)
Table 3: Typical mass data of rocket propelled vehicles using rockets with separate power system
Vehicle 
Payload 
Propulsion 
Thrust 
Action 
Propulsion 
Power System ^{2} Mass [kg] 
Propellant 
Mass 
Mass 
type 
time 
System dry 
Mass 

[kg] 
[kg] 
Mass ^{1} [kg] 
[kg] 

12500 
2500 
Solar 
1 kN 
days 
890 
720 
8000 (e) 
Thermal 

21850 
5990 
Nuclear 
10 N 
> 1000 
9860 
7385 
5040 
electric 
hr 

4346 
1135 
Solar 
3.2 N 
> 1000 
1849 
1420 
1041 
electric 
hr 
1) Includes also mass of energy source or power system, see next column. 2) Including power processing and control equipment.
In case we assume that the mass of power source scales linearly with the power output of this source:
With:
M
w
= α
P
⋅
ww
(3.6)
 1/α _{W} = specific power (W/kg) or α _{W} is inverse specific power (kg/W)
 P _{W} = power output from power source
The linear dependency of power source mass with power is evident in case of using solar energy. This is because solar panel or solar collector area increases with increasing power. In case of using nuclear energy, this assumption is less evident and one could reason that the mass of the energy source scales with the amount of energy instead of power. However, in practice again power is the dimensioning parameter. This is mostly because the mass of the energy source itself is negligible compared to the mass of the power conversion system needed to convert nuclear power into useful power. The latter again scales with power. Typical specific power values are given in the next table.
Table 4: Typical specific power values are [SSE Space propulsion web pages]
Type of power system 
Specific power 
Thermal: 

 Radioisotope 
25170 W _{t} /kg 
 Nuclearthermal
 Solar collectorreceiver at 1 AU
Electrical:
 Photovoltaic array
 Photovoltaic system (incl. batteries)
 Nuclearelectric
3004000 
kW _{t} /kg 
2002000 
W _{t} /kg 
1040 W _{e} /kg 712 W _{e} /kg 2.5100 W _{e} /kg
Power output required from the power source can be related to jet power ^{3} :
P
w
^{=}
P
i
η
(3.7)
With η is thrust efficiency, and P _{j} is jet power given by:
P
j
=
1 ⋅⋅ Fw
1
=
⋅
mw ⋅
2
2 2
(3.8)
Substitution of equation for mass of energy source gives for the system specific impulse:
^{3} Notice that we assume that power output from the power source is identical to the input power of the thrust generating system. In practice, this is rarely the case.
26
I ssp
Reworking gives:
I
==
Ft
⋅
W (
M
p
+⋅
α
P
WW
)
⋅
g
o
=
mwt
⋅⋅
⎛ ⎜
⎝
mt ⋅
+
α
W
⋅
m
⋅
w
2
2
η
⎞ ⎟
⎠
⋅
g
o
I
ssp
=
w/g
o
w/g
o
=
⎛
⎜
⎝
1 +
α
W
⋅ w
2
2
η
t
⎞
⎟
⎠
1
+ ε
w
2
(3.9)
(3.10)
With ε is specific mass of the energy source (expressed in kg/J); 1/ε is specific energy of the energy source (J/kg).
The next figure gives specific impulse as a function of exhaust velocity for two different values of specific mass of the energy source.
Velocity [m/s]
Figure 5: Optimum exhaust velocity for two different values of specific mass of energy source
From this figure, we learn that in this case specific impulse has some optimum value. The exhaust velocity at which this optimum occurs is referred to as the optimum exhaust velocity. This velocity depends on amongst others mission duration, specific power of power source, and thrust efficiency.
The value of the optimum exhaust velocity can be found by differentiating the specific impulse equation to exhaust velocity and setting the result equal to zero. This gives:
dI ssp
=
0
1/g
=
+ε
o
⋅
(1
+ε
w
2
)
−
2 ε w
⋅
(w / g )
o
dw
0
w
2
w
)
−
opt
=
1
−ε
w
= 1/g
o
⋅
(1
2
(3.11)
(3.12)
(3.13)
For instance, in the case of ε = 10 ^{}^{8} kg/J, we find that w _{o}_{p}_{t} = 10 km/s and for ε = 10 ^{}^{9} kg/J, w _{o}_{p}_{t} = 31.6 km/s.
27
For the propellant mass, we find:
(
w
M
s
w
w
+
V
Δ=
V
Δ=
⎛⎞
⎜⎟
⎝⎠
Δ
v
MMe
p
=
e
⋅
w
M
p
=
(
MM +
sW
)
⋅
−=
1
⎛⎞ ⎜⎟ e 1 ⎝⎠
Δ
v
−=
⎛⎞
⎜⎟ e 1 ⎝⎠
Δ
v
w
−
(3.14)
(3.15)
The latter relationship also holds in case we are unable to select the optimum exhaust velocity, for example through technical constraints.
For the mass of the power source, we find:
M
W
=
w
2
w opt
2
⋅
M
p
(3.16)
From the above equation, it follows for w = w _{o}_{p}_{t} : M _{W} = M _{p} .
As a final remark, we note that in case we use (excess) power from an already present power source, for example for providing power to the payload once arrived at its operational orbit, we can omit the design of the power source from our considerations and we should again strive for the highest velocity feasible.
4 Rocket staging
See Fortescue P, Stark J., and Swinerd G., Spacecraft systems engineering, 3 ^{r}^{d} edition, Chapter 7.2.3).
5 Problems
1)
You are designing a rocket (propulsion) system capable of transferring a satellite from LEO to GEO. The mission characteristic velocity change (Δv) is 3.94 km/s and the dry mass of the satellite (excluding the rocket system) is 1000 kg.
a) In case we select an exhaust velocity of 3000 m/s, calculate for this mission:
i. The mass of propellant that should be loaded into the rocket in case the dry mass of the rocket system is 100 kg;
ii. Propellant mass and dry mass of the rocket system in case the dry mass of the rocket system linearly depends on propellant mass (α = 0.096);
iii. Propellant mass and dry mass of the rocket system in case the propulsion system inert (dry) mass (indicated by y) of the rocket system is given by the following relationship (x is propellant mass in kg): y = 0.0348 x + 58.152.
iv. Discuss the differences in calculated propellant and motor mass.
28
b) In case we select a rocket system equipped with a power source with a specific mass of 100 W/kg, and an operational life of 1000 hours, and thrusters with a thrust efficiency of 0.7 calculate for this system:
i. Optimum exhaust velocity (Answer: 22.45 km/s);
ii. Propellant mass and rocket system dry mass (based on power subsystem mass only) in case we select an exhaust velocity equal to the optimum exhaust velocity;
iii. Idem in case we select an exhaust velocity equal to 1.5 times the optimum exhaust velocity.
2) Some designers argue that a linear relation exists between propulsion system dry mass and propellant mass. Using the mass data for specific bipropellant RCS systems as given in the table below, you are asked to determine the slope (and when applicable) the yintercept (y = system dry mass) of the linear relation that fits best. Discuss whether you agree with the assumption of a linear relationship or not (consider e.g. the assumption that system dry mass is independent of, or solely dependent on propellant mass).
Table: Mass characteristics of specific bipropellant RCS systems [SSE Space propulsion website]
Satellite 
System dry 
Total 
Pressurant 
Tank mass 
Pressurant 
Miscellaneous 
mass 
propellant 
mass 
[kg] 
tank mass 
mass 

[kg] 
mass 
[kg] 
[kg] 
[kg] 

[kg] 

DFS 
74.5 
773 
2 
40.0 
13.8 
20.7 
Eurostar 
105.335 
996 
N.A. 
61.6 
15.8 
27.9 
Eutelsat2 
103.3 
1064 
N.A. 
57.7 
15.8 
29.8 
Inmarsat2 
88.6 
760 
N.A. 
49.4 
15.7 
23.5 
Italsat 
106.3 
866 
N.A. 
62.0 
16.8 
27.5 
Olympus 
116.8 
1722 
N.A. 
49.4 
39.1 
28.2 
Literature
1) 
Fortescue P., Stark J., and Swinerd G., Spacecraft systems engineering, 3 ^{r}^{d} edition, Chapter 6.4 (introductory part and sections 6.4.1 and 7.2.3). 
2) 
Sutton G.P., Rocket Propulsion Elements, 7 ^{t}^{h} edition, John Wiley & Sons Inc. 
3) 
SSE space propulsion website, see Propulsion web pages 
29
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30
Thrust and Specific Impulse of a Thermal Rocket Motor
Contents
Contents 
31 
Symbols 
32 
1 Introduction 
33 
2 Thrust 
33 
3 Specific impulse 
37 
4 Problems 
37 
Literature 
37 
31
Symbols
The symbols are arranged alphabetically; Roman symbols first, followed by Greek. The used subscripts are given at the end of the list.
Roman 

A 
Area 
D 
Drag 
F 
Thrust 
g _{o} 
Gravitational acceleration at sea level 
I _{s}_{p} 
Specific impulse 
m 
Mass flow rate 
p 
Pressure 
R 
Pressure force on rocket 
S 
Surface 
U 
Flow velocity 
x, y, z Coordinates in Cartesian system
Greek 

ρ 
Mass density 
Subscripts
a 
Refers to atmospheric conditions 
e 
Refers to conditions in nozzle exit 
exp 
Experimental value 
eq 
Equivalent 
i 
Internal surface of rocket thrust chamber 
u 
External surface of rocket 
32
1
Introduction
The function of a thermal rocket engine system is to generate thrust thereby converting thermal energy into kinetic energy of the jet exhaust. A simple example of such a thermal rocket engine is a balloon. When you blow up a balloon and let it go it will fly all over the room (until running out of air). It is the air molecules flowing out the nozzle of the balloon that generate a thrust force.
In the previous chapter a simple expression has been derived for the rocket thrust in a
vacuum environment. In this section, we will consider the thrust generation process in
a thermal rocket in more detail and also the effect of the pressure environment on thrust.
2 Thrust
Earlier, an expression has been derived for the rocket thrust purely based on the exchange of (linear) momentum. Since a rocket motor may be subject to a pressure environment and because pressure forces are acting on the gas in the chamber, we should investigate the effect of these pressure forces on rocket thrust. In this section, we will derive an equation showing the thrust of a thermal rocket motor to include not only a component depending on the exchange of linear momentum, but also a pressure component.
Consider a steadily operating rocket travelling through the atmosphere at a certain velocity. At the back of the rocket a high velocity gas jet leaves the rocket. Figure 1 presents a schematic picture of the rocket. The outer surface of the rocket is indicated by S _{u} , and the surface enveloping the gaseous body in the chamber and nozzle is
called S _{i} . The nozzle exit area, i.e. the surface of the nozzle where the flow comes out,
is indicated by A _{e} . The pressure of the gas flow at the nozzle exit is indicated by p _{e} , the
density by ρ _{e} and the exhaust velocity by U _{e} . We furthermore assume that the injection flow velocity of the propellants as well as friction effects can be neglected, pressure, density and exhaust velocity are constant in magnitude over the nozzle exit area and the flow of gases through the exit plane is onedimensional.
Figure 1: Pressure forces on rocket
Now we determine the resulting force R _{x} on the rocket by integration of internal and external pressures in the xdirection:
R
x
=
⎡
⎢
⎢
⎣
∫
S
i
p
i
⋅
dS
i
−
∫
S
u
p
u
⋅
dS
u
⎤
⎥
⎥
⎦
x
33
(21)
When p _{a} is the constant ambient pressure, the integral of p _{a} over S _{u} and S _{i} is zero:
∫
p
a
⋅
dS
=
∫
S
i
p
a
⋅
dS
i
−
∫
S
u
p
a
⋅
dS
u
=
0
Subtracting (22) from (21):
R
x
=
⎡
⎢
⎢
⎣
∫
S
i
()
p
i
−
p
a
⋅
dS
i
−
∫
S
u
(
p
u
−
p
a
)
⋅
dS
u
⎤
⎥
⎥
⎦
x
(22)
(23)
Consider now the body of gas inside the combustion chamber and nozzle. The net force on the gas in the chamber is the sum of the reactions from the chamber walls and of the reaction of the absolute gas pressure at the exit. These two reactions are opposed. The law of conservation of momentum dictates that the net force on the gas equals the momentum flux out of the chamber.
BZ, 2001
U e
U e
Figure 2: Pressure forces on gaseous body inside chamber and nozzle
Neglecting the momentum connected with the injection of propellant into the combustion chamber, we find see also (29):
∫
S
i
∫
S
i
(
p
i
−
p
a
)
()
p
i
−
p
a
⋅
⋅
dS
dS
i
i
−
=
(
p
(
p
e
e
−
−
p
a
p
a
)
)
⋅
⋅
A
A
e
e
=
+
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