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Thrust Vectoring Aerospike

A College Senior Project 

The Annular Aerospike

Simple explanation:

It is a round thing that makes lots of fire and can turn. It is used to send things to space. It makes air smaller then lets it get bigger while also making it go really, really fast. It also has a long point that is in the center of the fast air. The slow air outside the fast air and the long point make the fast air move along the long point. As air gets thinner as you get to space, the fast air follows the long point less and then becomes the shape of a half circle on each side of the long point. When it turns, it makes the fast air go a different way, pushing everything the way you want it to go!

 

Background and more technical explanation:

The aerospike rocket nozzle has been an appealing aerospace technology under research for decades. It's natural altitude compensating abilities due to its shape give it single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) capabilities, which is great for reusability and cost efficiency. Additionally, it has been proven to be more efficient than the classic bell nozzle. Rocketdyne began extensive research into the aerospike in the 1960s. Their research was brought back to life by NASA in the 1990s as the nozzle to be used on the X-33, an SSTO vehicle and proposed alternative to the space shuttle. Linear aerospikes have been the subject of most research, while annular aerospikes have "flown under the radar" because of cooling difficulties and lack of thrust vectoring. This project hopes to address the thrust vectoring limitations of the annular aerospike.

     Due to the limitations imposed by standard rocket aerodynamic design, linear aerospikes, while being easier to create and to thrust vector, cannot be incorporated into traditional rocket designs because they lose to much of their linear area to be effective. Annular aerospikes, by comparison, can almost just be "slotted" onto any existing rocket. However, their lack of thrust vectoring capabilities has regulated them to tests and experiments only. 

     This project aims to test and conceptual prove that an annular aerospike can be thrust vectored. In doing so, we will learn about rocket design, rocket motor aerodynamics, thrust vectoring, CFD, FEA, schlieren photography, project management, 3D printing, matlab, and more.

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