A key requirement to achieve sustainable high-speed flight and efficiency improvements in space access, lies in the advanced performance of future propulsive architectures. Such concepts often feature high-speed nozzles, similar to rocket engines, but employ different configurations tailored to their mission. Additionally, they exhibit complex interaction phenomena between high-speed and separated flow regions at the base, which are yet not well understood, but are critical in terms of pressure and viscous forces. This paper presents a numerical investigation on the aerodynamic performance of a representative novel exhaust system, which employs a high-speed, truncated, ideal contoured nozzle and a complex-shaped cavity region at the base. Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes computations are performed for a number of Nozzle Pressure Ratios (NPRs) and free stream Mach numbers in the range of 2.7 < NPR < 24 and 0.7 < M < 1.2 respectively. The corresponding Reynolds number lies within the range of 1.06 · 106 < Red < 1.28 · 106 based on the maximum diameter of the configuration. A decomposition of the drag domain forces exposes the major trends between the constituent elements. The impact of the cavity on the aerodynamic characteristics of the apparatus is revealed by direct comparison to an identical non-cavity configuration. Results show a consistent trend of increasing base drag with increasing NPR for all examined M for both configurations. This is attributed to the jet entrainment effect and to the lower base pressure imposed by the higher jet flow expansion. The cavity region is found to have almost no impact on the incipient separation location of the nozzle flow. At low supersonic speeds of M = 1.2 and high NPRs, the cavity has a significant effect on the aerodynamic performance, transitioning nozzle operation to under-expanded conditions. This results in approximately 12% higher drag coefficient compared to the non-cavity case and shifts the minimum NPR for which the system produces positive gross propulsive force to higher values.

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