- Solid rocket booster
Solid rocket boosters (SRB) (or motors, SRM) are used to provide the main
thrustin spacecraft launches from the launchpad up to burnout of the SRBs. Many launch vehicles include SRBs, including the Ariane 5, Atlas V, and the NASA Space Shuttle. The NASA Space Shuttle uses two Space Shuttle SRBs, which are the largest of their type.
The solid-fuel SRBs are advantageous for the purpose of boosting launches compared to liquid-fueled rockets because they provide greater thrust and do not have the refrigeration and insulation requirements of liquid-fueled rockets. Adding detachable SRBs to a vehicle also powered by liquid-fueled rockets eases the amount of liquid-fuel needed and lowers the launch vehicle mass. This is known as staging.
One example of the increased performance from SRBs is the
Ariane 4rocket. The basic 40 model with no boosters could lift 2,175 kilograms payload to Geostationary transfer orbit[ [http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/ariane4.htm Ariane 4 ] ] . The 44P model with 4 solid boosters has a payload of 3,465 kg to the same orbit [ [http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/arine44p.htm Ariane 44P ] ] .
Solid boosters are usually cheaper to design, test, and produce compared to equivalent thrust liquid boosters. However, the costs on a per-flight basis tend to be equivalent.
It is difficult to stop a solid rocket motor before normal burnout. This can be done by explosively separating the nozzleand/or splitting the case lengthwise with a linear shaped charge. The latter method is common in
range safetydestruct systems.Either method terminates thrust by reducing combustion chamber pressure and propellant burn rate, though the propellant (usually in many pieces at this point) will continue to burn vigorously.
SRB failure rates are about 1%. They usually fail in sudden, catastrophic explosions due to case overpressurization.(The SRB failure mode on Challenger was an exception.)
These are all serious risk factors for manned spacecraft.
Solid rocket motors also present a significant handling risk on the ground. Once their propellant is poured into place and cured, they are always loaded and could catch fire or explode in an accident. Such an accident on
August 22, 2003killed 21 technicians at the Brazilian VLS rocket launch pad. [ [http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/vls.htm VLS ] ]
The manned and unmanned
Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicles currently planned as part of NASA's Vision for Space Explorationboth rely heavily on modified versions of the current Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters; the manned vehicle would use a single, expanded solid rocket booster as its first stage.
Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster
Liquid Rocket Booster
* [http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/technology/sts-newsref/srb.html#srb NASA website about the solid rocket booster]
* [http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/SPACEFLIGHT/solids/SP13.htm U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission article on solid propelled rockets]
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