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ISRO unveils lightweight carbon-carbon nozzle to increase rocket payload

ISRO unveils lightweight carbon-carbon nozzle to increase rocket payload

by Simon Mansfield

Sydney, Australia (SPX) April 22, 2024






The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has introduced a lightweight carbon-carbon (CC) nozzle for rocket engines, designed to improve various rocket engine performance metrics such as thrust levels, specific impulse and thrust-to-weight ratios, ultimately increasing the payload capacity of launch vehicles.

The innovation was pioneered by ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), which used Carbon-Carbon (CC) Composites to fabricate a divergent nozzle with low density, high specific strength and robust stiffness. The processes applied include the carbonization of green composites, chemical vapor infiltration and high temperature treatment, ensuring that the nozzle retains its mechanical properties even at high temperatures.

A key aspect of the CC nozzle is the protective anti-oxidation silicon carbide coating, which reduces thermally induced stresses and increases corrosion resistance, enabling longer operating temperature limits in challenging environments.

These advancements are likely to greatly benefit ISRO’s flagship Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Currently, the fourth stage of the PSLV (PS4) uses twin engines with Columbium alloy nozzles. Replacing these with CC composite nozzles could reduce mass by approximately 67%, potentially increasing payload by 15 kg.

The effectiveness of the new CC nozzle divergence was confirmed during a 60-second hot test on March 19, 2024 at the ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) in Mahendragiri, followed by a 200-second test on April 2, 2024, reaching temperatures of 1216K , in line with previous estimates.

The development involved collaboration between the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC) in Valiamala, which designed the test setup, and the IPRC in Mahendragiri, responsible for conducting the tests.


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