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Staged combustion cycle (rocket)


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The staged combustion cycle is a thermodynamic cycle of bipropellant rocket rocket engines. Some of the propellant is burned in a pre-burner and the resulting hot gas is used to power the engine's turbines and pumps. The exhausted gas is then injected into the main combustion chamber, along with the rest of the propellant, and combustion is completed.

The advantage of the staged combustion cycle is that all of the engine cycles' gases and heat go through the combustion chamber, and overall efficiency essentially suffers no pumping losses at all. Thus this combustion cycle is often called 'closed cycle' since the cycle is closed since all propellant products go through the chamber; as opposed to open cycle which dumps the turbopump driving gases, representing a few percent of loss.

Another very significant advantage that staged combustion gives is an abundance of power which permits very high chamber pressures. Very high chamber pressures mean high expansion ratio nozzles can be used, whilst still giving ambient pressures at takeoff. These nozzles give far better efficiencies at low altitude.

The disadvantages of this cycle are harsh turbine conditions, more exotic plumbing is required to carry the hot gases, and a very complicated feedback and control design is necessary.

Staged combustion engines are the most difficult types of rocket engines to design. A simplified version is called the Gas-generator cycle.


Staged combustion was first proposed by Alexey Isaev in 1949 and developed by Soviet engineers under V.P. Glushko. Also referred to as closed cycle, the first staged-combustion semi cryo engine was the NK-33, of which 30 powered the first stage of the unsuccessful Russian N1 rocket. N2O4/UDMH engines (RD 253)using staged combustion were developed by 1963 and installed on the Proton rocket in 1965. The Russian RD-180 engine, purchased by NASA for the Atlas III and V rockets, also employs this technique.

In the West, the first laboratory staged-combustion test engine was built in Germany in 1963, by Ludwig Boelkow.

The Space shuttle main engine is a current example of a staged combustion engine.

Full flow staged combustion cycle


Full flow staged combustion (FFSCC) is a variation on the staged combustion cycle where all of the fuel and all of the oxidizer pass through their respective power turbines. A small amount of fuel and oxidizer is swapped and combusted to supply power for the turbines.

The turbines run cooler in this design since more mass passes through them, leading to a longer engine life and higher reliability. The design can provide higher chamber pressures and therefore greater efficiency. An intropropellant turbine seal is also eliminated. A current version under development is the Integrated powerhead demonstrator.

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Staged_combustion_cycle_(rocket)". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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