Propulsion involves the study of the basic operation and design of aerospace propulsion devices, including both air-breathing engines and rocket powerplants. The gas dynamics of internal flows, thermodynamics, and combustion processes associated with those devices are discussed in detail. Engine components such as inlets, pumps, and/or compressors, combustion chambers, turbines, and nozzles are investigated. Various air-breathing engines such as turbojets, turbofans, ramjets, turboprops, and scramjets are treated. Rocket propulsion systems, including solid rocket motors; liquid rocket engines; hybrid rockets; and nuclear, electric, and advanced nonchemical systems are also covered.
The propulsion group has unique facilities which are highly beneficial for the study of rocket propulsion and energy conversion. Laboratories are housed at Grissom Hall and at two major remote campus locations: the Maurice Zucrow Laboratory (MZL), and the Aerospace Sciences Laboratory (ASL). A history of MZL can be found here. Faculty, students, and staff also have access to machining facilities.
The Aerospace Post-Processing and Visualization Laboratory (in Grissom Hall) contains a variety of high-end computational assets. Several Silicon Graphics workstations are available for general computing, graphical visualizations, and digitization of images on videotape. In addition, a cluster of dual-chip Pentium machines running in a LINUX environment provides a resource for parallel computations of a significant scale.
Both the Advanced Propellants and Combustion Laboratory (APCL) and the High Pressure Laboratory (HPL East and West) are housed at MZL. The test cells contained in APCL are of poured, reinforced concrete design with containment steel doors and explosive rated viewing windows. These cells are classed for both Class 1.1 and 1.3 explosives and are equipped with a frangible blowout wall, in case of major catastrophic events. Test Cells A and B currently contain rocket thrust stands capable of handling thrust loads of up to 1000 lbf. Test Cell C is currently in the design phase and will be built up in the near future. In local proximity is a dedicated oxidizer storage building, and a dedicated explosive/propellant storage bunker, rated for Class 1.1 materials. The two HPL test cells are also constructed with reinforced concrete walls and open into a secure detonation cell. The West Test Cell houses a pulse detonation engine (PDE) while the East Test Cell contains a rocket based combined cycle (RBCC) engine and a 10,000 lbf test stand.
Two options for machining high quality parts exist. The Aerospace Sciences Laboratory Machine Shop is a full-service, high tolerance machining facility with equipment including 3- and 5-axis mills, lathes (including C&C), welders, and grinders. Four full-time machinists are available for the fabrication of materials for class and research projects. Previous works have included rocket components (combustors, injectors, nozzles, etc.), turbomachinary, airfoils, and various wind tunnel (subsonic to Mach 6) and instrument parts. Additionally, the Central Machine Shop (CMS) is equipped and staffed to perform work requiring precision machining, machining on large work pieces, and specialized fabrications. Special services include 3-D CNC milling and full computer drafting and design. Instructional and research apparatus of almost any size and complexity can be fabricated. A wide variety of materials are available from the shop's inventory. The Central Machine Shop manager can coordinate special skills that exist on campus or are available commercially as well as advise faculty members and graduate students about the design of their research and instrumental equipment.
The "Smoke and Fire 101" page contains large amounts of information about engines, propulsion data, and has lots of useful links.