Rocket Propulsion Systems

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Solid Fuel System

  • Provide large amounts of thrust.
  • Cannot be switched off once ignited.
  • Fuel and oxidiser are combined to generate high temperatures and pressures.
  • Cavity inside the engine increases in volume as the fuel is combusted.
  • Pressure and efficiency fall as the fuel is combusted (due to the increase in volume: pV=nRT)
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Cold Gas System

  • Single gas and a nozzle- simplest system.
  • Safest of all chemical propulsion systems.
  • Less efficient than other chemical propellants.
  • The pressure goes down as the gas is used, reducing thrust and efficiency.
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Ion Propulsion System

  • Electric propulsion.
  • Small amounts of ionised gas are accelerated by an electrostatic field to produce a high speed exhaust.
  • Uses far less fuel than a chemical system.
  • Inefficient in an atmosphere or during launch.
  • Useful in space- only a small thrust is required over a long distance to produce a high change in velocity.
  • Can be used as a final thruster or for deep space travel.
  • The source of energy for the engine can be either solar or nuclear.
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