Design and Development of Solar Thermal Propulsion System with PCM as Thermal Energy Storage Medium

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Aerospace Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Rydge Mulford


The main objective of this project is to investigate the performance of Phase Change Materials as the Heat Exchange media in a solar thermal propulsion system. The secondary objective is to visualize and develop the solar thermal propulsion system by running various ground tests using a solar simulator as power source. The project involves design, modelling and fabrication of a bench scale Solar Thermal Propulsion System that can be used to carry and deliver satellites to Moon or Mars’ orbit from LEO. PCM’s are essential for space travel since the solar energy needs to be stored for the spacecraft to successfully complete the interplanetary missions which consume time and fuel. Without the energy storage system, the spacecraft might need to use conventional fuel ignition systems, which cost money to manufacture and implement in the spacecraft. In this system, the energy from solar light is concentrated into a small cavity through a parabolic reflector and is used to heat the PCM, which in turn heats the propellant and directs it through the nozzle to provide thrust adequate to travel in space. The prototype of the system is first designed using a CAD software and later fabricated into a bench scale model. The model is then set up in the laboratory and connected to a high flux solar simulator. Computational simulations and some test runs of the physical model would be conducted to analyze the performance of PCM in this system


Phase Change Material, Solar energy, thermal energy storage, solar thermal propulsion, PCM, heat exchange

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