Performance evaluation of a LOX-LCH4 reaction control system thruster

Jose Luis Mena, University of Texas at El Paso


The following work outlines the assessment and characterization of a 2 to 8 lbf LOX - LCH4 reaction control thruster. The evaluation includes both experimental tests and preliminary computational analysis. Testing was conducted at O/F values ranging from 1.0 to 3.0; however, future testing will evaluate the thruster at higher and intermediate mixture ratios. The test setup includes three main systems: cryogenic propellant delivery system, thrust measurement capability, and automation and controls system. Propellant flow control is achieved through the use of in-house designed cavitating venturis. Autonomous system control is accomplished via a LabVIEW program interface and DAQ system. This allows for the manipulation of system components, as well as real-time data acquisition. The thrust measurement system uses a torsional thrust balance, where the rotational axis is fitted with torsional pivots providing a known resistance to the force provided by the thruster. Testing has concluded significant under performance when compared to theoretical values, as well as near 60% ignition reliability. Moreover, baseline CFD analyses have been conducted to give an understanding of the injector performance and propellant mixing at the point of ignition. Both test data and CFD analysis will drive the next generation thruster design.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering|Mechanical engineering

Recommended Citation

Mena, Jose Luis, "Performance evaluation of a LOX-LCH4 reaction control system thruster" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1564687.