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Towards Integrated Pulse Detonation Propulsion and MHD PowerThe interest in pulse detonation engines (PDE) arises primarily from the advantages that accrue from the significant combustion pressure rise that is developed in the detonation process. Conventional rocket engines, for example, must obtain all of their compression from the turbopumps, while the PDE provides additional compression in the combustor. Thus PDE's are expected to achieve higher I(sub sp) than conventional rocket engines and to require smaller turbopumps. The increase in I(sub sp) and the decrease in turbopump capacity must be traded off against each other. Additional advantages include the ability to vary thrust level by adjusting the firing rate rather than throttling the flow through injector elements. The common conclusion derived from these aggregated performance attributes is that PDEs should result in engines which are smaller, lower in cost, and lighter in weight than conventional engines. Unfortunately, the analysis of PDEs is highly complex due to their unsteady operation and non-ideal processes. Although the feasibility of the basic PDE concept has been proven in several experimental and theoretical efforts, the implied performance improvements have yet to be convincingly demonstrated. Also, there are certain developmental issues affecting the practical application of pulse detonation propulsion systems which are yet to be fully resolved. Practical detonation combustion engines, for example, require a repetitive cycle of charge induction, mixing, initiation/propagation of the detonation wave, and expulsion/scavenging of the combustion product gases. Clearly, the performance and power density of such a device depends upon the maximum rate at which this cycle can be successfully implemented. In addition, the electrical energy required for direct detonation initiation can be significant, and a means for direct electrical power production is needed to achieve self-sustained engine operation. This work addresses the technological issues associated with PDEs for integrated aerospace propulsion and MHD power. An effort is made to estimate the energy requirements for direct detonation initiation of potential fuel/oxidizer mixtures and to determine the electrical power requirements. This requirement is evaluated in terms of the possibility for MHD power generation using the combustion detonation wave. Small scale laboratory experiments were conducted using stoichiometric mixtures of acetylene and oxygen with an atomized spray of cesium hydroxide dissolved in alcohol as an ionization seed in the active MHD region. Time resolved thrust and MHD power generation measurements were performed. These results show that PDEs yield higher I(sub sp) levels than a comparable rocket engine and that MHD power generation is viable candidate for achieving self-excited engine operation.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Litchford, Ron J. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Thompson, Bryan R. (ERC, Inc. Tullahoma, TN United States)
Lineberry, John T. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Meeting Information
Plasmadynamics and Lasers(Norfolk, VA)
Distribution Limits