Research

Unsteady Rocket Nozzle

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This numerical simulation gives a glimpse of flow inside an unsteady rocket nozzle.  The nozzle is over-expanded, meaning that the exhaust’s pressure is lower than that of the ambient atmosphere. A slightly over-expanded nozzle causes little more than a decrease in efficiency, but if the nozzle is grossly over-expanded, the boundary layer along the nozzle wall can separate and induce major instabilities, as seen here. In the first segment of the video, turbulent structures along the nozzle wall boundary layer are shown; note how the boundary layer becomes very thick and turbulent after the primary shock wave (shown in gray). This is due to the flow separating near the wall.  The second half of the video shows the unsteadiness this can create. The primary shock wave splits into two near the wall, creating a lambda shock wave, named for the shape of the lower case Greek letter. This shock structure is indicative of strong interaction between the boundary layer and shock wave. (Video credit: B. Olson and S. Lele)

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