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Altitude Compensating Nozzle (ACN)
The primary objective of the ACN project is to advance the technology readiness level (TRL) of the dual-bell rocket nozzle through flight testing and research. This nozzle is predicted to outperform the conventional bell rocket nozzle, which is inefficient at any altitude other than its design altitude. With a distinct dual-bell shape, this nozzle can be optimized
for both low and high altitudes. As a result, the nozzle plume is never significantly over- or under-expanded, yielding a higher propulsive efficiency. When considering a rocket's performance over its entire integrated trajectory, the dual-bell nozzle is predicted to achieve a higher total impulse, allowing for the delivery of greater mass payloads to low Earth orbit (LEO). The current effort is focused on preparing for dual-bell rocket nozzle operation during captive-carried flight with a NASA F-15, enabling the performance benefits with the dual-bell rocket nozzle to be quantified in a relevant flight environment.
Work to date: Progress to date has primarily focused on: (1) the development of the conceptual design, including integration with the F-15 flight testbed; (2) the construction of a concept of operations plan; and (3) an initial definition of all top-level objectives and requirements.
Looking ahead: An ambitious 5-year plan includes a framework for design, analysis, ground testing, and flight testing.
NASA Partner: Marshall Space Flight Center
Economical: The dual-bell nozzle is predicted to increase the delivery of payload mass to LEO by up to 5 percent, and may reduce the cost of delivering payloads to LEO.
Increased rocket engine structural integrity: Low-altitude nozzle flow will not be significantly over-expanded, which may lead to increased uniformity, symmetry, and stability of the nozzle plume flow field.
Hypersonics and Space Technologies
Akey objective of hypersonic research at NASA is to develop methods and tools that adequately model fundamental physics and allow credible physics-based optimization for future operational hypersonic vehicle systems. Research focuses on solving some of the most difficult challenges in hypersonic flight, and Armstrong innovators are contributing to this research in several ways:
- Exploring adaptive guidance systems that could detect conditions likely to result in dangerous situations and automate compensating maneuvers
- Modeling high-altitude environments to improve flight planning designs for high-speed vehicles
- Designing high-temperature insulative and advanced composite materials
This research will enable the development of highly reliable and efficient hypersonic systems.
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