Beck, James E. Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, California.
Last reviewed:November 2019
- Altitude compensation
- Comparison with conventional engines
- Linear aerospike
- Advanced launch vehicles
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The aerospike engine (Fig. 1a) is an advanced liquid-propellant rocket engine with unique operating characteristics and performance advantages over conventional rocket engines. It combines a contoured axisymmetric plug nozzle (Fig. 2), an annular torus-shaped combustion chamber, conventional turbopumps, a turbine exhaust system that injects the turbine drive gases into the base of the plug nozzle, and a simple combustion tap-off engine cycle. The aerospike is one-quarter the length of a conventional rocket engine, yet it delivers comparable performance (efficiency) at high altitude and superior performance at low altitude. The low-altitude performance advantage is primarily due to the fact that the plug nozzle compensates for altitude whereas the nozzle of a conventional rocket engine does not. While the plug nozzle and its benefits are not new to the field of air-breathing propulsion, the aerospike represents the first application of this type of nozzle to the field of rocket propulsion. Typical propellants are liquid hydrogen (fuel) and liquid oxygen (oxidizer). A variation of the aerospike engine is the linear aerospike engine.
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