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Garbage-In Garbage-Out (GIGO): The Use and Abuse of Combustion Modeling and Recent U.S. Spacelaunch Environmental Impacts
  • PattiMichelle Sheaffer
PattiMichelle Sheaffer
The Aerospace Corp. (ret.), The Aerospace Corp. (ret.), The Aerospace Corp. (ret.), The Aerospace Corp. (ret.), The Aerospace Corp. (ret.), The Aerospace Corp. (ret.), The Aerospace Corp. (ret.), The Aerospace Corp. (ret.), The Aerospace Corp. (ret.)

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Although adequately detailed kerosene chemical-combustion Arrhenius reaction-rate suites were not readily available for combustion modeling until ca. the 1990’s (e.g., Marinov [1998]), it was already known from mass-spectrometer measurements during the early Apollo era that fuel-rich liquid oxygen + kerosene (RP-1) gas generators yield large quantities (e.g., several percent of total fuel flows) of complex hydrocarbons such as benzene, butadiene, toluene, anthracene, fluoranthene, etc. (Thompson [1966]), which are formed concomitantly with soot (Pugmire [2001]). By the 1960’s, virtually every fuel-oxidizer combination for liquid-fueled rocket engines had been tested, and the impact of gas phase combustion-efficiency governing the rocket-nozzle efficiency factor had been empirically well-determined (Clark [1972]). Up until relatively recently, spacelaunch and orbital-transfer engines were increasingly designed for high efficiency, to maximize orbital parameters while minimizing fuels and structural masses: Preburners and high-energy atomization have been used to pre-gasify fuels to increase (gas-phase) combustion efficiency, decreasing the yield of complex/aromatic hydrocarbons (which limit rocket-nozzle efficiency and overall engine efficiency) in hydrocarbon-fueled engine exhausts, thereby maximizing system launch and orbital-maneuver capability (Clark; Sutton; Sutton/Yang). The rocket combustion community has been aware that the choice of Arrhenius reaction-rate suite is critical to computer engine-model outputs. Specific combustion suites are required to estimate the yield of high-molecular-weight/reactive/toxic hydrocarbons in the rocket engine combustion chamber, nonetheless such GIGO errors can be seen in recent documents. Low-efficiency launch vehicles (SpaceX, Hanwha) therefore also need larger fuels loads to achieve the same launched/transferred mass, further increasing the yield of complex hydrocarbons and radicals deposited by low-efficiency rocket engines along launch trajectories and into the stratospheric ozone layer, the mesosphere, and above. With increasing launch rates from low-efficiency systems, these persistent (Ross/Sheaffer [2014]; Sheaffer [2016]), reactive chemical species must have a growing impact on critical, poorly-understood upper-atmosphere chemistry systems.
28 Feb 2023Submitted to AGU 2021 Fall Meeting
28 Feb 2023Published in AGU 2021 Fall Meeting