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Space Technology, Section-A, Module -3, Lecture-4 Class 9

Parallel staging of Chemical Rockets

M 0(n)
n

M 0 ( i +1)
i+1
M 0 (i )

i
M 0 (1)

0 1 0

In parallel staging (as shown in the figure), several small stages (commonly
designated as stage ‘0’) are strapped onto to a central first stage. This technique is
used when a excess thrust is needed at liftoff of heavy launch vehicles. At launch, all
(central first stage and strap-ons) engines are ignited. When the propellants in the
strap-on's are exhausted, the strap-on rockets are discarded. The first stage engine
continues to burn till propellants are exhausted.

Let, total mass of all strap–ons (stage ’0’) = M 0

Total structural mass of all strap-ons = M 0S

Total propellant mass of all strap-ons = M 0P


Lift-off weight (LOW) of the entire vehicle is given by
=
M 0 M 0S + M 0P

M=
00 M 0 + M 01

where, M 01 is the mass of the entire vehicle from 1 through ‘n’ stages including

payload and excluding strap-ons

Let ‘t b1 ’ be the burn time of the stage ‘1’ and ‘t b0 ’ be the burn time of the stage ‘0’.
Then, the mass burn rate of the stage ‘1’ and strap-ons are given by
M 0P
Strap-ons: m 0 =
tb0

M 1P
Stage‘1’: m 1 = where, M 1P is the propellant mass of stage ’1’.
t b1

Let ‘ U e 0 ’ and ‘ U e1 ’ be the exhaust velocities of the stage ‘0’ and stage-1 of rocket

respectively. Then the thrust produced by the combination is given by,

T = m 1U e1 + m 0U e 0 = m total U e 0

where, m total = m 1 + m 0 is the total mass burn rate and the average exhaust

velocity, U e 0 is given by

m 1U e1 + m 0U e 0
U e0 =
m 1 + m 0

Generally in the case of launch vehicles t b 0 < t b1 (though for the case of GSLV

t b 0 = 160 s and t b1 = 100s ).


Now, using rocket equation for combined burning of stage ‘0’ and stage-1, i.e.
t b 0 > t > 0 , velocity increment ( ∆V0′ ) at t b 0 can be written as

 M 00 
∆V0′ = U e 0 ln 
 M 00 − M Pi − M P 0 
where M Pi is the mass of the propellant burnt out of the stage ‘1’ during t b 0 .

or M Pi = m 1t b 0

For the time period t b1 > t > t b 0

 M − M Pi − M 0 S − M 0 P 
∆V1′ = U e1 ln 00 
 M 01 − M 1P 

M 00 - M 0S - M 0P = M 00 - M 0 = M 01

 M − M Pi 
or ∆V1′ = U e1 ln 01 
 M 01 − M 1P 

The total increment in velocity ( ∆Vn ) attained by an ‘n’ stage vehicle having

parallel staging along with stage-1 followed by serial staging sequence for the
remaining stages is obtained as:

n
∆Vrocket , n = ∆V0′ + ∆V1′ + ∑U ei ln ( µi )
i =2

Where µi is the stage mass ratio (total mass of vehicle at the start of stage firing/

mass of vehicle at the end of stage firing).


∆Vn in terms of ratios λ, µ, ε
The following relationships help us to write the velocity increment in terms mass
ratio (µ), payload ratio (λ) and structural coefficient (ε).

Velocity increment from parallel staging at stage-1:

M 00 M 01 + M 0
µ0 = =
M 00 − M Pi − M P 0 M 01 + M 0 S − M Pi

M 0 S + M 1S
ε0 =
M 0S + M 1S + M 0 P + M Pi

M 01 − M Pi − M 1S
λ0 = where M 1s is the structural mass of stage-1.
M 0 S + M 1S + M 0 P + M Pi

 1 + λ0 
From Rocket equation ∆V0′ = U e 0 ln (µ 0 ) = U e 0 ln 
 ε 0 + λ0 

Velocity increment from stage-1 after strap-ons are ejected:

After strap-on ejection the ratios are given by

M 01 − M Pi
µ1 =
M 01 − M 1P

M S1
ε1 =
M S 1 + M 1P − M Pi

M 02
λ1 =
M S 1 + M 1P − M Pi

 1 + λ1 
∆V1′ = U e1 ln (µ1 ) = U e1 ln 
 ε 1 + λ1 
n n
 1 + λi 
or ∆Vrocket , n = ∆V0′ + ∆V1′ + ∑U ei ln ( µi ) = ∆V0′ + ∆V1′ + ∑U ei ln  
=i 2=i 2  ε i + λi 
Example:
Consider a two stage rocket (same as in Case I of earlier example) with two
boosters. The total weight of two serial stages is 15,000 kg and that of each
booster is 5000 kg (4000 kg propellant + 1000 kg structure). The exhaust velocity
of all the stages including the booster is 3000 m/s and the mass flow rate of
propellant from each booster and each stage is 70 kg/s. Calculate ΔV achieved
by the vehicle.
Lift off weight (LOW) = 15000 + 2 x 5000 kg
= 25000 kg ( = M 00 )

4000
t b (burn out time for the boosters) = = 57.143 S
70
 M 00 
∆V01 =Ve 0 ln  
 M 00 − M Pi − M P 0 
M Pi =×70 57.143 = 4000 kg
M Po= 2 × 4000 kg
 25000 
∆V01 =3000 ln  
 25000 − 4000 − 2 × 4000 
= 1961.78 m / s
M P1 = ?

For stage 1
M S1 + M P1 = 15000 – 3783 (= M 01 – M 02 )

M S1 = 2384.36 kg

∴ M P1 = 8742.64 kg

 M − M Pi 
∆V11 = Ve1 ln  o1 
 M 01 − M P1 
 15000 − 4000 
= 3000 ln  
15000 − 8742.64 
= 1692.41 m / s
∆V1 = ∆V01 + ∆V11
= 3654.2 m / s
∆Vrocket , 2 = ∆V1 + ∆V2

∆V2 remains same as before

∆V2 = 2626.4 m/s

∆Vrocket ,2 = 6280.6 m/s

Note that by adding boosters the ∆Vrocket ,2 has increased by little more than 1km/s

compared to the two stage rocket without booster.

Now consider the case where all the propellant and all the structure were to be
used for an ideal two stage rocket.

M 01 = 25000 kg M L = 1000 kg

M 02 = M 01 M L = 5000 kg
MS 2 ×1000 + 3000
∈= = = 0.208
MS +MP (2 × 1000 + 3000) + (11000 + 2 × 4000 )
M 02 5000
λ= = = 0.25
M 01 − M 02 20000 − 5000
1 + λ 
∆Vrocket , 2 = 2 U e ln  
ε + λ 
 1.25 
= 2 × 3000 ln 
 0.458 
= 6020 m / s

Note that the two stage gives nearly same ∆V as the two stage rocket with two
boosters. However, the thrust develop at the beginning of ascent by the two
vehicles differ.
T2 stage +=
booster 3=
 e 630 KN
mU

T2 stage=
ideal =
 e 210 KN
mU

where m = 70 kg/s
Note that the ideal two stage vehicle will not be able to lift off as the weight of
vehicle itself at the beginning is 250 KN.

So, for a given initial rocket mass parallel staging is done to increase the total
thrust of the launch vehicle at the beginning of launch and does not contribute
significantly to ∆V improvement of the vehicle. However, an improved version of
a launch vehicle is often made by adding powerful boosters. This is primarily
driven by economy and reliability of existing technology compared to developing
new larger first stage.

Further Reading:
1. Space Flight Dynamics (2nd Edition) by William E Wiesel, Chapter #7 (Section
7.4 – 7.5)