Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Aerospace Engineering

Major Professor

Gary A. Flandro

Committee Members

Basil Antar, Christian Parigger, Trevor Moeller


Combustion instability is a problem that has plagued the development of rocket-propelled devices since their conception. It is characterized by the occurrence of high-frequency nonlinear gas oscillations inside the combustion chamber. This phenomenon degrades system performance and can result in damage to both structure and instrumentation.

The goal of this dissertation is to clarify the role of unsteady combustion in the combustor instability problem by providing the first quantified estimates of its effect upon the stability of liquid rocket engines. The combination of this research with a new system energy balance method, accounting for all dynamic interactions within a system, allows for the isolation of combustion effects for this study. These effects are quantified through use of classical linear stability analysis to calculate the unsteady combustion heat release growth rate.

Since combustion modeling can become very involved, including the mixing process and multiple reactions concerned, for this initial evaluation the model is limited to a one-dimensional flame analysis for a one-step premixed chemical reaction. Using classical analysis of oscillatory burning, the governing combustion equations are expanded into sets of steady and unsteady equations adapted for premixed liquid rockets. From this expansion process, the first real treatment of the effects of unsteady combustion in a rocket system is presented, and the first quantified values of the unsteady heat release in a rocket system are computed. Finally, the corresponding linear heat release growth rate for the system is then calculated for the first quantified effects of unsteady combustion on the overall system stability.

The mechanism of unsteady combustion is shown to behave as a driving mechanism, serving as one of the more important stability mechanisms comparable to the magnitude of the nozzle damping mechanism. This analysis confirms that unsteady combustion is an important stability mechanism that warrants further investigation. This study also creates a firm foundation upon which to extend the analysis of this important mechanism to fully understand all of its effects within a rocket system.


Hello, Ms. Bronstad,

I am resubmitting the final version of my dissertation to you. As I mentioned in my email, I noticed the pagination problems with the PDF when I downloaded it. I am now submitting the PDF of the same document.

Thank you very much, Tina Rice

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