Nuclear thermal rocket engine with a toroidal aerospike nozzle

Publication Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

AIAA Propulsion and Energy 2020 Forum



First Page


Last Page



The following article describes the coupling of a nuclear thermal rocket engine with a toroidal aerospike nozzle. This coupling consists of two approaches to design. The first of these approaches being the top-level systems and subsystems analysis and design for the new engine. The second being the analysis and characterization of the major engine systems through the use of computational fluid dynamics simulations. With the coupling of the nuclear thermal rocket engine with the aerospike nozzle, the new system will be known as the Nuclear Thermal Propulsion System (NTPS). Due to the uniqueness of coupling a nuclear thermal rocket engine (NTR) with a toroidal aerospike nozzle, the traditional NTR design of a cylindrical nuclear core had to be abandoned. This change stems from the need for cooling of the aerospike nozzle and the inherent obstruction that the nozzle support structure would represent for such a system. The redesigned nuclear core is known as a hoop core because the nuclear core is fashioned into a hoop shape to allow for the integration with an aerospike nozzle specially configured for use with the annular core. This innovative design represents a significant improvement over conventional chemical rockets in both the means of providing energy for thrust generation as well as the expulsion and expansion of the related exhaust. The details of these engine components, as well as other systems, will be described in the subsequent chapters.

Funding Sponsor

San José State University


Aerospace Engineering