Liquid Fuel Rocket Engine

Project Type: Propulsion and Levitation

Project Information

Project Description:

Liquid Fuel Rocket EngineThe task is to design, build, and test a liquid-fueled rocket engine.  A mixture of gaseous oxygen and methanol are injected into a copper combustion chamber at high pressure.  A stainless-steel outer jacket permits cooling water to flow along the outer surface of the chamber and DeLaval nozzle.  Combustion temperatures will exceed 5000° F at pressures around 200-300 psi.  Oxygen and liquid fuel will be injected into the combustion chamber at 300-400 psi and ignited by a disposable electric probe.  A properly tuned engine will exhibit shock diamonds in the exhaust plume.

Level of Difficulty: High


Robert H. Goddard, Karl Gustaf Patrik de Laval, mass flow, stoichiometric ratio, oxidizer, specific impulse, thrust, characteristic chamber length, divergence half-angle, Mach disk, shock triple point


“How to Design, Build, and Test Small Liquid-Fuel Rocket Engines,” by Leroy J. Krzycki, ROCKETLAB, China Lake, CA, March 1967

Cal Poly Liquid Rocket Engine Tests, Senior Project,

“Why Shock Diamonds Shoot Out of Jets and Space Shuttles,” by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Team Roles

Electrical Engineer (2) – Electrical Engineers on the project are responsible for the disposable ignition system used to start the engine.  The probe is a combination of a high-voltage electric spark and combustible material.

Liquid Fuel Rocket EngineMechanical Engineer (3) – Mechanical Engineers on the project are responsible for the design and construction of the high-pressure fuel and oxygen system.  The system includes a custom fuel tank that injects fuel into the combustion chamber by a head of high-pressure nitrogen.  Further, the Mechanical Engineers will provide a single-pass water cooling system to extract enough engine heat to preserve the integrity of the combustion chamber.

Aerospace Engineer (3) – The Aerospace Engineers on the project are responsible for the design and construction of the engine’s combustion chamber, nozzle, injectors, and cooling jacket.  Care must be taken in the design to make the combustion chamber and cooling jacket walls thick enough to withstand the combustion pressures with an ample safety factor.  Furthermore, high welding quality in the jacket and chamber manufacturing must be maintained and the joints hydro tested to assure a leak-free assembly.

Computer Scientist (2) – Computer Scientists on the project are responsible for the remote actuation of the ignition system and all fuel and oxygen valves.  Additionally, pressure and flow instruments must be read from the same remote location.  These controls and readouts are used to safely start, run, and shut down the engine according to a prescribed procedure. Controls will be hard wired and redundant to assure that the engine cannot free run.

Journalist (1) – The Journalist documents the project’s progress on the website, communicates with the local media, and is responsible for a final report to the principal sponsors and Power Mountain Engineering.  The Journalist also works closely with the Multimedia Artist to provide video and graphic art displays for demonstrations that explain the project to the public.  The whole project is your project.

Multimedia Artist (1) – The Artist also documents the project’s progress on the website and works with the Journalist to maintain the project’s presence on social media.  Additionally, the Artist designs and organizes all public relations events to assure spectator safety and to enhance the community’s awareness of science and technology.  In this case, displays must be enjoyed from a safe perimeter that protects the crowd’s hearing.  The whole project is your project.

Business Manager (1) – The Business Manager is responsible for reporting the project’s progress against a predetermined schedule, determines critical path items to completion, and tracks project spending to assure that costs remain within a fixed budget.  The Manager works with all team members to identify problems early and resolve them quickly.  The whole project is your project.

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