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Pulse Detonation Rocket MHD Power ExperimentA pulse detonation research engine (MSFC (Marshall Space Flight Center) Model PDRE (Pulse Detonation Rocket Engine) G-2) has been developed for the purpose of examining integrated propulsion and magnetohydrodynamic power generation applications. The engine is based on a rectangular cross-section tube coupled to a converging-diverging nozzle, which is in turn attached to a segmented Faraday channel. As part of the shakedown testing activity, the pressure wave was interrogated along the length of the engine while running on hydrogen/oxygen propellants. Rapid transition to detonation wave propagation was insured through the use of a short Schelkin spiral near the head of the engine. The measured detonation wave velocities were in excess of 2500 m/s in agreement with the theoretical C-J velocity. The engine was first tested in a straight tube configuration without a nozzle, and the time resolved thrust was measured simultaneously with the head-end pressure. Similar measurements were made with the converging-diverging nozzle attached. The time correlation of the thrust and head-end pressure data was found to be excellent. The major purpose of the converging-diverging nozzle was to configure the engine for driving an MHD generator for the direct production of electrical power. Additional tests were therefore necessary in which seed (cesium-hydroxide dissolved in methanol) was directly injected into the engine as a spray. The exhaust plume was then interrogated with a microwave interferometer in an attempt to characterize the plasma conditions, and emission spectroscopy measurements were also acquired. Data reduction efforts indicate that the plasma exhaust is very highly ionized, although there is some uncertainty at this time as to the relative abundance of negative OH ions. The emission spectroscopy data provided some indication of the species in the exhaust as well as a measurement of temperature. A 24-electrode-pair segmented Faraday channel and 0.6 Tesla permanent magnet assembly were then installed on Marshall Space Flight Center's (MSFC's) rectangular channel pulse detonation research engine. Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) electrical power extraction experiments were carried out for a range of load impedances in which cesium hydroxide seed (dissolved in methanol) was sprayed into the gaseous oxygen/hydrogen propellants. Positive power extraction was obtained, but preliminary analysis of the data indicated that the plasma electrical conductivity is lower than anticipated and the near-electrode voltage drop is not negligible. It is believed that the electrical conductivity is reduced due to a large population of negative OH ions. This occurs because OH has a strong affinity for capturing free electrons. The effect of near-electrode voltage drop is associated with the high surface-to-volume ratio of the channel (1-inch by 1-inch cross-section) where surface effects play a dominant role. As usual for MHD devices, higher performance will require larger scale devices. Overall, the gathered data is extremely valuable from the standpoint of understanding plasma behavior and for developing empirical scaling laws.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Litchford, Ron J.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Cook, Stephen
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2002
Subject Category
Plasma Physics
Meeting Information
33rd Plasmadynamics and Lasers Conference(Maui, HI)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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