Projectile Combustion Effects on Ram Accelerator Performance
Chitale, Saarth Anjali
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University of Washington Abstract Projectile Combustion Effects on Ram Accelerator Performance Saarth Anjali Chitale Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Prof. Carl Knowlen William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics The ram accelerator facility at the University of Washington is used to propel projectiles at supersonic velocities. This concept is similar to an air-breathing ramjet engine in that sub-caliber projectiles, shaped like the ramjet engine center-body, are shot through smooth-bore steel-walled tubes having an internal diameter of 38 mm. The ram accelerator propulsive cycles operate between Mach 2 to 10 and have the potential to accelerate projectile to velocities greater than 8 km/s. The theoretical thrust versus Mach number characteristics can be obtained using knowledge of gas dynamics and thermodynamics that goes into the design of the ram accelerator. The corresponding velocity versus distance profiles obtained from the test runs at the University of Washington, however, are often not consistent with the theoretical predictions after the projectiles reach in-tube Mach numbers greater than 4. The experimental velocities are typically greater than the expected theoretical predictions; which has led to the proposition that the combustion process may be moving up onto the projectile. An alternative explanation for higher than predicted thrust, which is explored here, is that the performance differences can be attributed to the ablation of the projectile body which results in molten metal being added to the flow of the gaseous combustible mixture around the projectile. This molten metal is assumed to mix uniformly and react with the gaseous propellant; thereby enhancing the propellant energy release and altering the predicted thrust-Mach characteristics. This theory predicts at what Mach number the projectile will first experience enhanced thrust and the corresponding velocity-distance profile. Preliminary results are in good agreement with projectiles operating in methane/oxygen/nitrogen propellants. Effects of projectile surface to volume ratio are also explored by applying the model to experimental results from smaller (Tohoku University, 25-mm-bore) and larger (Institute of Saint-Louis 90-mm-bore) bore ram accelerators. Due to lower surface-to-volume ratio, large diameter projectiles are predicted to need to reach higher Mach numbers than smaller diameter projectiles before thrust enhancement due to metal ablation and burning would be experienced. This proposition was supported by published experimental data. The theoretical modeling of projectile ablation, metal combustion, and subsequent ram accelerator thrust characteristics are presented along comparisons to experiments from three different sized ram accelerator facilities.