Date of Award

12-2012

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering

Department

Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Dr. Eric Perrell

First Committee Member

Dr. Lakshmanan Narayanaswami

Second Committee Member

Dr. William Barott

Third Committee Member

Dr. William Engblom

Abstract

Rocket-launched vehicles produce a trail of exhaust that contains ions, free electrons, and soot. The exhaust plume increases the effective conductor length of the rocket. A conductor in the presence of an electric field (e.g. near the electric charge stored within a cloud) can channel an electric discharge. The electrical conductivity of the exhaust plume is related to its concentration of free electrons. The risk of a lightning strike in-flight is a function of both the conductivity of the body and its effective length. This paper presents an approach that relates the electron number density of the exhaust plume to its propagation constant. Estimated values of the collision frequency and electron number density generated from a numerical simulation of a rocket plume are used to guide the design of the experimental apparatus. Test par meters are identified for the apparatus designed to transmit a signal sweep form 4 GHz to 7 GHz through the exhaust plume of a J-class solid rocket motor. Measurements of the scattering parameters imply that the transmission does not penetrate the plume, but instead diffracts around it. The electron density 20 cm downstream from the nozzle exit is estimated to be between 2.7x10 14 m-3 and 5.6x10 15 m-3 .

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