The paper presents technological, experimental and numerical studies aimed at the development of a morphing nozzle in composite material with a deformable divergent section, which is designed to control the vector of thrust in rockets without using mechanisms or localized flexible joints. The nozzle design is characterized by corrugated composite walls and longitudinal elements that make possible a separation of load paths involved in bending response, bearing of internal pressures and related force resultants. Mechanical requirements and conditions of pressure, temperature and gas velocity in the morphing part of the nozzle are defined by selecting and investigating two potential application scenarios. Thereafter, both technological aspects and the assessment of mechanical performances are addressed by designing, manufacturing and testing a composite demonstrator with morphing capabilities. A lightweight and flexible thermal protection system is proposed, designed and numerically analyzed. Finally, a virtual demonstrator of the composite morphing nozzle is developed. Results point out the possibility of manufacturing composite elements with axial load bearing capability that may undergo significant bending deformation without failures. The integration of a flexible thermal protection systems leads to a promising concept for the development of innovative morphing nozzle for rocket engine applications.
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