Performance modelling and simulation of a 100km hybrid sounding rocket.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Phoenix Hybrid Sounding Rocket Programme was established in 2010. The programme’s main objective is to develop a sounding rocket launch capability for the African scientific community, which currently lacks the ability to fly research payloads to the upper atmosphere. In this dissertation, UKZN’s in-house Hybrid Rocket Performance Simulator (HYROPS) software is used to improve the design of the Phoenix-2A vehicle, which is intended to deliver a 5 kg instrumentation payload to an apogee altitude of 100 km. As a benchmarking exercise, HYROPS was first validated by modelling the performance of existing sub-orbital sounding rockets similar in apogee to Phoenix-2A. The software was found to approximate the performance of the published flight data within 10%. A generic methodology was then proposed for applying HYROPS to the design of hybrid propellant sounding rockets. An initial vehicle configuration was developed and formed the base design on which parametric trade studies were conducted. The performance sensitivity for varying propulsion and aerodynamic parameters was investigated. The selection of parameters was based on improving performance, minimising cost, safety and ease of manufacturability. The purpose of these simulations was to form a foundation for the development of the Phoenix-2A vehicle as well as other large-scale hybrid rockets. Design chamber pressure, oxidiser-to-fuel ratio, nozzle design altitude, and fin geometry were some of the parameters investigated. The change in the rocket’s propellant mass fraction was the parameter which was found to have the largest effect on performance. The fin and oxidiser tank geometries were designed to avoid fin flutter and buckling respectively. The oxidiser mass flux was kept below 650 kg/m2s and the pressure drop across the injector relative to the chamber pressure was maintained above 15% to mitigate the presence of combustion instability. The trade studies resulted in an improved design of the Phoenix-2A rocket. The propellant mass of the final vehicle was 30 kg less than the initial conceptual design and the overall mass was reduced by 25 kg. The Phoenix-2A vehicle was 12 m in length with a total mass of 1006 kg. The fuel grain length of Phoenix-2A was 1.27 m which is approximately 3 times that of Phoenix-1A. The benefit of aluminised paraffin wax as a fuel was also investigated. The results indicated that more inert mass can be delivered to the target apogee of 100 km when using a 40% aluminised paraffin wax.
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