Sunday, February 21, 2010

Solid-fuel rocket

A solid rocket or a solid-fuel rocket is a rocket with a motor that uses solid propellants (fuel/oxidizer). The earliest rockets were solid fueled and powered by gunpowder; they were used by the Chinese, Mongols and Arabs in warfare as early as the 13th century. All rockets used some form of solid or powdered propellant up until the 20th century, when liquid rockets and hybrid rockets offered more efficient and controllable alternatives. Solid rockets are still used today in model rockets and on larger applications for their simplicity and reliability. Since solid fuel rockets can remain in storage for long periods—and then reliably launch on short notice—they have been frequently used in military applications such as missiles. Solid fuel rockets are unusual as primary propulsion in modern space exploration, but are commonly used as booster rockets.

Basic concepts
A simple solid rocket motor consists of a casing, nozzle, grain (propellant charge), and igniter.
The grain behaves like a solid mass, burning in a predictable fashion and producing exhaust gases. The nozzle dimensions are calculated to maintain a design chamber pressure, while producing thrust from the exhaust gases.
Once ignited, a simple solid rocket motor cannot be shut off, because it contains all the ingredients necessary for combustion within the chamber that they are burned in. More advanced solid rocket motors can not only be throttled but can be extinguished and then re-ignited by controlling the nozzle geometry or through the use of vent ports. Also, pulsed rocket motors which burn in segments and which can be ignited upon command are available.
Modern designs may also include a steerable nozzle for guidance, avionics, recovery hardware (parachutes), self-destruct mechanisms, APUs, controllable tactical motors, controllable divert and attitude control motors and thermal management materials.

Design begins with the total impulse required, this determines the fuel/oxidizer mass. Grain geometry and chemistry are then chosen to satisfy the required motor characteristics.
The following are chosen or solved simultaneously. The results are exact dimensions for grain, nozzle and case geometries;
1. The grain burns at a predictable rate, given its surface area and chamber pressure.
2. The chamber pressure is determined by the nozzle orifice diameter and grain burn rate.
3. Allowable chamber pressure is a function of casing design.
4. The length of burn time is determined by the grain 'web thickness'.

The grain may be bonded to the casing, or not. Case-bonded motors are much more difficult to design, since the deformation, under operating conditions, of the case and the grain must be compatible.
Common modes of failure in solid rocket motors include fracture of the grain, failure of case bonding, and air pockets in the grain. All of these produce an instantaneous increase in burn surface area and a corresponding increase in exhaust gas and pressure, which may potentially induce rupture of the casing.
Another failure mode is casing seal design. Seals are required in casings that have to be opened to load the grain. Once a seal fails, hot gas will erode the escape path and result in failure. This was the cause of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Hobby and amateur rocketry
Solid fuel rocket motors can be bought for use in model rocketry; they are normally small cylinders of black powder fuel with an integral nozzle and sometimes a small charge that is set off when the propellant is exhausted after a time delay. This charge can be used to trigger a camera, or deploy a parachute. Without this charge and delay, the motor may ignite a second stage (black powder only).
In mid- and high power rocketry, commercially made APCP motors are widely used. They can be designed as either single use or reloadables. These motors are available in impulse ranges from "D" to "O", from several manufacturers. They are manufactured in standardized diameters, and varying lengths depending on required impulse. Standard motor diameters are 18, 24, 29, 38, 54, 75, 98, and 150 millimeters. Different propellant formulations are available to produce different thrust profiles, as well as "special effects" such as colored flames, smoke trails, or large quantities of sparks (produced by adding titanium sponge to the mix).
Designing solid rocket motors is particularly interesting to amateur rocketry enthusiasts. The design of a successful solid fuel motor requires application of continuum mechanics, combustion chemistry, materials science, fluid dynamics (including compressible flow), heat transfer, geometry (particle spectrum packing), and machining. The vast majority of amateur-built rocket motors utilize a composite propellant, most commonly APCP
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