Rocket Nozzle Plume Heating

Rocket Plume Heat Transfer

Thermal Desktop® is commonly used for thermal analyses of spacecraft and propulsion systems. Less frequently, these tools are used for calculating the temperatures in supersonic exhaust nozzles, such as those in rockets or thrusters.

The temperature of the nozzle wall is an important aspect of rocket design. The exhaust-gas temperature typically exceeds the maximum allowable temperature of the nozzle wall material. The ability to estimate the wall temperature allows the design of a cooling system.

Four types of cooling systems can be modeled in Thermal Desktop: heat sink; thermal radiation; even regenerative (using FloCAD®). A difficult part of modeling the cooling system is approximating the heat transfer from the plume to the nozzle wall. The convective film coefficient can be estimated through a number of methods (Bartz equation, TDK boundary layer technique, etc); the coefficient is highly dependent on the axial location within the nozzle.

Rocket nozzle segments

    C&R Thermal Desktop® Model of a Radiating Nozzle


The steady-state solution is presented below. Note the increased temperatures on the front right side of the nozzle caused by variation in the heat transfer coefficient, called streaking. The radiating section of the nozzle shows varying wall temperatures as a result of the changing heat transfer coefficient.

When compared to the actual system, the convective heat fluxes for the radiating portion of the nozzle are underestimated by about 20%. These are reasonable results based on simplification of the geometry (no structural reinforcements were included) and assumptions made within the fluid properties and equilibrium reactions. The correction factor mentioned above could be adjusted to remove this error or provide a safety factor: a key benefit of model parameterization.

Rocket nozzle temperature results with streaking

   Steady-State Results of Plume Convection in a Radiating Nozzle Using the Bartz Equation with Streaking


Expansions of the model could be:

  • Adding regenerative cooling in place of the fixed-temperature boundary condition
  • Adding surfaces representing the throat (a torus, perhaps) and the combustion chamber
  • Adding ablative properties to the inner wall of the nozzle or throat
  • Adding a second, concentric surface around the nozzle and mapping solid elements between the surfaces to form a heat sink nozzle
  • Mapping the results to a NASTRAN or ANSYS structural FE model


FloCAD online training

Class times: May 2 & 4 from 10am to 2pm MT

Cost: $425

This online class will provide an introduction to fluid modeling components within FloCAD. The class will be held over a 2-day period, with daily sessions running approximately 4 hours each. The class uses a mixture of lecture, demonstrations, and self-paced tutorials to allow attendees to practice building fluid system models and interpreting results. The presentations will comprise 2 - 3 hours of each session, and the instructor will be available during the remainder of the time for questions during tutorials. Attendees must have basic working knowledge of SINDA and Thermal Desktop as these topics will not be covered but their usage is required for FloCAD.

Register here

Thermal Desktop, RadCAD, and TD Direct in-class training

Date: April 25-28, 2017, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., daily
Location: Lakewood, CO

CRTech will be hosting introductory training for Thermal Desktop, RadCAD and TD Direct. Lecture and hands-on tutorials introduce attendees to basic Thermal Desktop and RadCAD usage and allow practice building models and interpreting results. The class will also introduce students to SpaceClaim direct modeling CAD interface and advanced meshing tools in TD Direct.

Daily Schedule

Day 1 and 2: Introduction to SINDA and Thermal Desktop
Day 3: Introduction to RadCAD
Day 4: Introduction to TD Direct

To learn more about this class and to register, visit our Training Page.

Anode and cathode of a flow battery

Using Sinaps? It is not too soon to get started with TD/FloCAD!

This webinar describes the process for converting from Sinaps to Thermal Desktop (TD) and FloCAD. This process includes using an exporter which works with Version 6.0 of the CRTech tool suite (expected to be released in May of 2017).

Come learn about the basics of TD/FloCAD, including many compelling features not available in Sinaps. The webinar will also cover how to manage the transition period, during which you may be using both programs simultaneously. This is also a chance to ask questions. 

If you missed this webinar, please contact us for the presentation material and recording.