Energy And Efficiencies

Although efficiencies are not commonly used directly in designing rocket units, they permit an understanding of the energy balance of a rocket system. Their definitions are arbitrary, depending on the losses considered, and any consistent set of efficiencies, such as the one presented in this section, is satisfactory in evaluating energy losses. As stated previously, two types of energy conversion processes occur in any propulsion system, namely, the generation of energy, which is really the conversion of stored energy into available energy and, subsequently, the conversion to the form in which a reaction thrust can be obtained. The kinetic energy of ejected matter is the form of energy useful for propulsion. The power of the jet Pjei is the time rate of expenditure of this energy, and for a constant gas ejection velocity v this is a function of /, and F

The term specific power is sometimes used as a measure of the utilization of the mass of the propulsion system including its power source; it is the jet power divided by the loaded propulsion system mass, Pjtt/m0. For electrical propulsion systems which carry a heavy, relatively inefficient energy source, the specific power can be much lower than that of chemical rockets. The energy input from the energy source to the rocket propulsion system has different forms in different rocket types. For chemical rockets the energy is created by combustion. The maximum energy available per unit mass of chemical propellants is the heat of the combustion reaction QR; the power input to a chemical engine is

where / is a conversion constant which depends on the units used. A large portion of the energy of the exhaust gases is unavailable for conversion into kinetic energy and leaves the nozzle as residual enthalpy. This is analogous to the energy lost in the high-temperature exhaust gases of internal combustion engines.

The combustion efficiency for chemical rockets is the ratio of the actual and the ideal heat of reaction per unit of propellant and is a measure of the source efficiency for creating energy. Its value is high (approximately 94 to 99%), and it is defined in Chapter 5. When the power input /'chem is multiplied by the combustion efficiency, it becomes the power available to the propulsive device, where it is converted into the kinetic power of the exhaust jet. In electric propulsion the analogous efficiency is the power conversion efficiency. For solar cells it has a low value; it is the efficiency for converting solar radiation energy into electric power (10 to 20%).

The power transmitted to the vehicle at any one time is defined in terms of the thrust of the propulsion system F and the vehicle velocity u:

The internal efficiency of a rocket propulsion system is an indication of the effectiveness of converting the system's energy input to the propulsion device into the kinetic energy of the ejected matter; for example, for a chemical unit it is the ratio of the kinetic power of the ejected gases expressed by Eq. 2-19 divided by the power input of the chemical reaction as given in Eq. 2-20. Internal efficiencies are used in Example 2-3. The energy balance diagram for a chemical rocket (Fig. 2-3) shows typical losses. The internal efficiency can be expressed as kinetic power in jet \mv2

available chemical power ^comb^chem

Heat loss to walls

Combustion loss (poor mixing, incomplete burning)

Unavailable thermal energy of exhaust jet

Residual kinetic energy of exhaust gases " Oto 50%

Heat loss to walls

Combustion loss (poor mixing, incomplete burning)

Unavailable thermal energy of exhaust jet

Residual kinetic energy of exhaust gases " Oto 50%

FIGURE 2-3. Typical energy balance diagram for a chemical rocket.

^Useful energy for vehicle propulsion -Kinetic energy of exhaust jet -Total energy of exhaust jet -Available energy in combustion chamber '—Heating value of propellants

FIGURE 2-3. Typical energy balance diagram for a chemical rocket.

Typical values of iqmt are listed later in Example 2-3.

The propulsive efficiency (Fig. 2-4) determines how much of the kinetic energy of the exhaust jet is useful for propelling a vehicle. It is also used often with duct jet engines and is defined as vehicle power Tlp vehicle power + residual kinetic jet power

~ Fu + \{w/go){c-u)2~ \+{u/cf where F is the thrust, u the absolute vehicle velocity, c the effective rocket exhaust velocity with respect to the vehicle, w the propellant weight flow rate, and rjp the propulsive efficiency. The propulsive efficiency is a maximum when the forward vehicle velocity is exactly equal to the exhaust velocity. Then the residual kinetic energy and the absolute velocity of the jet are zero and the exhaust gases stand still in space.

While it is desirable to use energy economically and thus have high efficiencies, there is also the problem of minimizing the expenditure of ejected mass, which in many cases is more important than minimizing the energy. In nuclear reactor energy and some solar energy sources, for example, there is an almost unlimited amount of heat energy available; yet the vehicle can only carry a limited amount of working fluid. Economy of mass expenditures of working fluid can be obtained if the exhaust velocity is high. Because the specific impulse is proportional to the exhaust velocity, it is a measure of this propellant mass economy.

Velocity ratio, u/c

FIGURE 2-4. Propulsive efficiency at varying velocities.

Velocity ratio, u/c

FIGURE 2-4. Propulsive efficiency at varying velocities.

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