Development of a hybrid sounding rocket motor.
This work describes the development of a hybrid rocket propulsion system for a reusable sounding rocket, as part of the first phase of the UKZN Phoenix Hybrid Sounding Rocket Programme. The programme objective is to produce a series of low-to-medium altitude sounding rockets to cater for the needs of the African scientific community and local universities, starting with the 10 km apogee Phoenix-1A vehicle. In particular, this dissertation details the development of the Hybrid Rocket Performance Code (HRPC) together with the design, manufacture and testing of Phoenix-1A’s propulsion system. The Phoenix-1A hybrid propulsion system, generally referred to as the hybrid rocket motor (HRM), utilises SASOL 0907 paraffin wax and nitrous oxide as the solid fuel and liquid oxidiser, respectively. The HRPC software tool is based upon a one-dimensional, unsteady flow mathematical model, and is capable of analysing the combustion of a number of propellant combinations to predict overall hybrid rocket motor performance. The code is based on a two-phase (liquid oxidiser and solid fuel) numerical solution and was programmed in MATLAB. HRPC links with the NASA-CEA equilibrium chemistry programme to determine the thermodynamic properties of the combustion products necessary for solving the governing ordinary differential equations, which are derived from first principle gas dynamics. The combustion modelling is coupled to a nitrous oxide tank pressurization and blowdown model obtained from literature to provide a realistic decay in motor performance with burn time. HRPC has been validated against experimental data obtained during hot-fire testing of a laboratory-scale hybrid rocket motor, in addition to predictions made by reported performance modelling data. Development of the Phoenix-1A propulsion system consisted of the manufacture of the solid fuel grain and incorporated finite element and computational fluid dynamics analyses of various components of the system. A novel casting method for the fabrication of the system’s cylindrical single-port paraffin fuel grain is described. Detailed finite element analyses were performed on the combustion chamber casing, injector bulkhead and nozzle retainer to verify structural integrity under worst case loading conditions. In addition, thermal and pressure loading distributions on the motor’s nozzle and its subsequent response were estimated by conducting fluid-structure interaction analyses. A targeted total impulse of 75 kNs for the Phoenix-1A motor was obtained through iterative implementation of the HRPC application. This yielded an optimised propulsion system configuration and motor thrust curve.