Closed Loop Throttle Control of a Liquefying Fuel Hybrid Rocket Motor

Timothy Velthuysen, Michael Brooks, Jean Pitot


The thrust produced by a hybrid rocket motor (HRM) can be controlled by varying the oxidizer flow rate to the combustion chamber. This feature is useful in shaping motor thrust profiles and optimizing a vehicle flight trajectory, but propellant throttling in solid-fuel hybrids is limited to the liquid component only, complicating the control scheme and potentially destabilizing combustion in the motor. While hybrid motor throttling ability remains a subject of considerable interest, there has been little investigation of throttling in motors that use high regression rate, liquefying fuels such as paraffin wax. This article describes the development and implementation of a closed loop thrust control scheme for a laboratory-scale paraffin wax/nitrous oxide HRM using a low-cost ball valve as the controlling hardware element. A model of motor performance is first developed from which proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller constants are obtained through experimental testing. The control scheme is demonstrated through closed loop hot fire tests of a laboratory-scale motor in which thrust tracks a set-point value with feedback provided through a load cell. Upon reaching the setpoint, the motor remains throttled within ± 2.4% of the maximum thrust of the motor. Constant and ramping thrust profiles are demonstrated.


Throttling; Thrust control; Ball valve; Paraffin wax

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