Start Your Rocket Engine

When supersonic flow is achieved through a wind tunnel or rocket nozzle, the flow is said to have “started”. For this to happen, a shock wave must pass through, leaving supersonic flow in its wake. The series of images above show a shock wave passing through an ideal rocket nozzle contour. Flow is from the top to bottom. As the shock wave passes through the nozzle expansion, its interaction with the walls causes flow separation at the wall. This flow separation artificially narrows the rocket nozzle (see images on right), which hampers the acceleration of the air to its designed Mach number. It also causes turbulence and pressure fluctuations that can impact performance.  (Image credit: B. Olson et al.)

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