Fatigue life prediction of liquid rocket engine combustor with subscale test verification
Reusable rocket systems such as the Space Shuttle introduced a new era in propulsion system design for economic feasibility. Practical reusable systems require an order of magnitude increase in life. To achieve this improved methods are needed to assess failure mechanisms and to predict life cycles of rocket combustor. A general goal of the research was to demonstrate the use of subscale rocket combustor prototype in a cost-effective test program. Life limiting factors and metal behaviors under repeated loads were surveyed and reviewed. The life prediction theories are presented, with an emphasis on studies that used subscale test hardware for model validation. From this review, low cycle fatigue (LCF) and creep-fatigue interaction (ratcheting) were identified as the main life limiting factors of the combustor. Several life prediction methods such as conventional and advanced viscoplastic models were used to predict life cycle due to low cycle thermal stress, transient effects, and creep rupture damage. Creep-fatigue interaction and cyclic hardening were also investigated. A prediction method based on 2D beam theory was modified using 3D plate deformation theory to provide an extended prediction method. For experimental validation two small scale annular plug nozzle thrusters were designed, built and tested. The test article was composed of a water-cooled liner, plug annular nozzle and 200 psia precombustor that used decomposed hydrogen peroxide as the oxidizer and JP-8 as the fuel. The first combustor was tested cyclically at the Advanced Propellants and Combustion Laboratory at Purdue University. Testing was stopped after 140 cycles due to an unpredicted failure mechanism due to an increasing hot spot in the location where failure was predicted. A second combustor was designed to avoid the previous failure, however, it was over pressurized and deformed beyond repair during cold-flow test. The test results are discussed and compared to the analytical and numerical predictions. A detailed comparison was not performed, however, due to the lack of test data resulting from a failure of the test article. Some theoretical and experimental aspects such as fin effect and round corner were found to reduce the discrepancy between prediction and test results.