Analysis of supercritical methane in rocket engine cooling channels

Luka Denies, Barry Zandbergen, P. Natale, D. Ricci, M. Invigorito

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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Methane is a promising propellant for liquid rocket engines. As a regenerative coolant, it would be close to its critical point, complicating cooling analysis. This study encompasses the development and validation of a new, open-source computational fluid dynamics (CFD) method for analysis of methane cooling channels. Validation with experimental data has been carried out, showing an accuracy within 20 K for wall temperature and 10% for pressure drop. It is shown that the turbulence model has only a limited impact on the simulation results and that the wall function approach generates valid results. Finally, a cooling analysis is performed to compare two thrust chamber materials. A traditional copper alloy is compared to aluminium as chamber material for a small moderate-pressure oxygen/ methane engine. The analyses show that aluminium is a feasible chamber material only if a thermal barrier coating is applied. In addition, a significantly higher cooling channel pressure drop is incurred for an aluminium chamber than for a copper chamber due to the lower allowable temperature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Space Propulsion 2016
Subtitle of host publicationRome, Italy
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventSpace propulsion - Marriott Rome Park Hotel, Rome, Italy
Duration: 2 May 20166 May 2016


ConferenceSpace propulsion
Abbreviated titleSP2016
Internet address


  • supercritical methane
  • regenerative cooling
  • thrust chamber
  • cooling channels
  • CFD
  • CHT
  • copper
  • aluminium


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