Date of Award:

5-2019

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Advisor/Chair:

Stephen Whitmore

Co-Advisor/Chair:

David Geller

Third Advisor:

Douglas Hunsaker

Abstract

Automatic altitude compensation has been a holy grail of rocket propulsion for decades. Current state-of-the-art bell nozzles see large performance decreases at low altitudes, limiting rocket designs, shrinking payloads, and overall increasing costs. Aerospike nozzles are an old idea from the 1960’s that provide superior altitude-compensating performance and enhanced performance in vacuum, but have survivability issues that have stopped their application in satellite propulsion systems. A growing need for CubeSat propulsion systems provides the impetus to study aerospike nozzles in this application. This study built two aerospike nozzles using modern 3D metal printing techniques to test aerospikes at a size small enough to be potentially used on a CubeSat. Results indicated promising in-space performance, but further testing to determine thermal limits is deemed necessary.

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