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Propulsion Systems in Rockets & Missiles

Published Date: 08th Feb 2022

A propellant is a chemical mixture that is ignited to produce thrust in rockets & missiles. These consist of fuel & an oxidizer, where the fuel burns when mixed with oxygen-producing gas for propulsion. A full-scale rocket has four major components:

  • The Structural System or Frame
  • Payload System
  • Guidance System
  • Propulsion System

Of them all, the propulsion system of the rocket includes all components of a rocket engine, tank pumps, powerheads, propellants, & rocket nozzle. The prominent job of a propulsion system is to generate thrust to move the rocket through air & space. In airplanes, the thrust is usually generated through Newton's third law of action & reaction.

When gas or working fluid gets accelerated by the aircraft engine, it produces a force on the engine as the reaction. As per a recent research study, the Global Advanced Rocket & Missile Propulsion System Market is expecting around 9% CAGR during 2021-26. This forecast is based primarily on the mounting geopolitical tensions encouraging governments of different countries worldwide to strengthen their national security by investing massively in procuring advanced rockets & missiles.

Types of Rocket Propulsion

For a propulsion system to work, the rockets must have a solid or liquid propellant consisting of a fuel source & an oxidizer, as an oxygen source to burn the fuel. There are two prominent types of rocket propulsion to launch a rocket from the ground. 

  • Solid Propulsion: where fuel & oxidizer are incorporated as a solid.
  • Liquid Propulsion: fuel & oxidizer are stored separately and mixed & ignited later. 

The solid propulsion rockets are used majorly as boosters for launch and are safer, reliable, lighter, & cost-efficient. Yet, once the propulsion system is ignited, the engine won't shut or restart, and the power generated might not be controllable. The solid propulsion system produces the desired impulse for the rocket. However, it must attain satisfactory mechanical properties to resist flight environment & ground handling.

On the other hand, liquid propulsion rockets are more complex & expensive than solid propulsion ones and can generate more velocities. These propulsions can shut down & restart. 

For instance, the shuttle program of NASA has both types of propulsion systems to launch the rockets. Here, while the space shuttles use liquid fuel for propulsion, its two Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) use the solid fuel. Once the solid fuel of the SRBs is completely used, these boosters separate from the shuttle & are later recovered for future use. 

Hybrid propulsion systems are an intermediate group of propulsion between solid & liquid-propellant engines.  The fuel is usually the solid substance while the oxidizer acts as the liquid part. For the propulsion, the liquid is mixed with the solid, which reservoirs serve in the combustion chamber. Similar to solid ones, these propulsion systems provide high performance. However, the combustion is moderate & can restart & stop.

Wrapping Up

Amongst all, the most common type of liquid propellant for rockets use two separate propellants, liquid oxidizers, & liquid fuel. Each of these is carried in different tanks are mixed when injected into the combustion chamber by pumps & pressure. Hence, with ongoing developments in the propulsion systems of rockets & missiles, coupled with increasing territorial conflicts worldwide, the Global Advanced Rocket & Missile Propulsion System Market shall witness significant growth opportunities in the years to come.

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