Analysis of direct solar thermal rocket propulsion

Sankaran Venkateswaran, Charles L. Merkle, Stefan T. Thynell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The conceptual feasibility of direct absorption, solar thermal propulsion is addressed by means of a detailed analysis of the coupled radiation-gasdynamic process. The primary issue concerns the success with which low intensity solar radiation can be coupled into a working fluid. The fluid dynamics are described by a twodimensional Navier-Stokes analysis coupled with a ray-tracing model for the solar absorption and an approximate "thick-thin" model for the reradiation. The absorption physics are included by a detailed spectral model of the absorption. The working fluid is selected as hydrogen with trace amounts of alkali metal vapors to enhance absorption. Results indicate that previous one-dimensional approximations overestimate the potential of solar rockets but that direct absorption combined with regenerative wall cooling appears promising for appropriate sizes and chamber pressures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-547
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Propulsion and Power
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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