Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




A series of experiments into the behavior of underexpanded jet flows has been conducted at NASA Langley Research Center. This work was conducted in support of the Return to Flight effort following the loss of the Columbia. The tests involved simulating flow through a hypothetical breach in the leading edge of the Space Shuttle Orbiter along its reentry trajectory, with the goal of generating a data set with which other researchers can test and validate computational modeling tools. Two nozzles supplied with high-pressure gas were used to generate axisymmetric underexpanded jets exhausting into a low-pressure chamber. These nozzles had exit Mach numbers of 1 and 2.6. Reynolds numbers based on nozzle exit conditions ranged from about 200 to 35,000, and nozzle exit-to-ambient jet pressure ratios ranged from about 1 to 37. Both free and impinging jets were studied, with impingement distances ranging from 10 to 40 nozzle diameters, and impingement angles of 45??, 60??, and 90??. For the majority of cases, the jet fluid was a mixture of 99.5% nitrogen seeded with 0.5% nitric oxide (NO).;Planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) of NO was used to non-intrusively visualize the flow with a temporal resolution on the order of lets. PLIF images were used to identify and measure the location and size of flow structures. PLIF images were further used to identify unsteady jet behavior in order to quantify the conditions governing the transition to turbulent flow. This dissertation will explain the motivation behind the work, provide details of the laser system and test hardware components, discuss the theoretical aspects of laser-induced fluorescence, give an overview of the spectroscopy of nitric oxide, and summarize the governing fluid mechanical concepts. It will present measurements of the size and location of flow structures, describe the basic mechanisms and origins of unsteady behavior in these flows, and discuss the dependence of such behavior on particular flow structures. Finally, correlations describing the relationship between flow conditions and the degree of flow unsteadiness at a given location along the jet axis will be presented.



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