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RAP opportunity at Air Force Science and Technology Fellowship Program     AF STFP

Experimental Mechanics and Solid Rocket Propellants


Aerospace Systems Directorate, RQ/Rocket Propulsion Division

opportunity location
13.30.12.B5781 Edwards Air Force Base, CA 93524


name email phone
Timothy Clark Miller 661.275.5323


The objectives of this research are to use experimental mechanics methods to improve the characterization of solid rocket propellants. Solid rocket propellant is composed of a high volume fraction of particles in a rubbery matrix material. The material is considered viscoelastic, and also nonlinear viscoelastic (if damage due to debonding or dewetting of the particles takes place). The complex nature of the material response is not reflected in the testing methods, however. Currently, we use simple stress relaxation tests and uniaxial tension tests to determine both constitutive and ultimate properties. In these tests, strains are measured by dividing crosshead displacement by an effective gauge length. We want to improve the accuracy of our mechanical property measurements for both small deformations and large deformations (where dewetting takes place) by employing optical methods such as digital image correlation (DIC) to better measure strain during such tests. Properties such as Young’s modulus, Poisson’s ratio, strain at failure, ultimate stress, strain at ultimate stress, volume changes during testing, fracture toughness, and stress relaxation master curves matter. An additional concept is that dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) could be used to better characterize the viscoelastic material–the Prony series constants that we employ now come from a set of stress relaxation tests which are labor intensive test procedures–it is thought that a DMA analysis could yield useful data with less material and less effort. This work is ongoing and can be improved. The ultimate goal is better characterization of mechanical properties of propellant.


key words
Rocket motor; Propellant; Viscoelasticity; Stress relaxation; Fracture mechanics; Digital image correlation; Dynamic mechanical analysis;


Citizenship:  Open to U.S. citizens
Level:  Open to Postdoctoral and Senior applicants


Base Stipend Travel Allotment Supplementation
$95,000.00 $5,000.00

Experience Supplement:
Postdoctoral and Senior Associates will receive an appropriately higher stipend based on the number of years of experience past their PhD.

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