What is the Difference Between Car Engines and Rocket Engines?

What is the Difference Between Car Engines and Rocket Engines? image 0 Engine volume

Rockets and internal combustion engines are two different types of engines. While car engines lose efficiency as they accelerate, rockets remain constant in efficiency no matter their speed. Rocket engines are oblivious to fuel consumption, allowing them to achieve maximum efficiency.

Specific impulse

In rocket science, the efficiency of rocket engines is measured in specific impulses. This is similar to the fuel efficiency of a car engine. A clear high motivation means the engine needs less fuel to produce the same amount of thrust. It also means that two identically-sized machines can produce different levels of thrust. However, this difference does not mean the engines will have the same lifespan.

The specific impulse of an engine varies depending on its atmosphere. It’s much higher when the engine is in the air and lower when it is in space. Using a rocket as an example will make this clear. The F-1 rocket had a 70 bar chamber pressure, which is 70 times the pressure of the atmosphere. That’s equivalent to nearly 700 meters of pressure below sea level.

The mass of an exhaust molecule affects the specific impulse of an engine. The heavier the fuel, the lower the particular notion of the engine. A higher-performing engine has a higher clear motivation. Moreover, a high-performance chemical fuel usually contains large quantities of hydrogen, the lightest known element. However, heavier hydrocarbon fuels produce carbon dioxide and other messy compounds. These compounds lower the engine’s specific impulse, making it less efficient.

What is the Difference Between Car Engines and Rocket Engines? image 0

To understand how specific impulse differs between car engines and rocket engines, it is essential to consider the corresponding pressure curves of the two types of machines. The rocket motor pressure curve shows transient and steady-state behavior. The short phase occurs during the ignition phase, while the steady-state phase occurs after consumed fuel. Afterward, the pressure falls back to the ambient level. In both rocket engines, the changes in chamber pressure are related to the geometry of the fuel and the associated burn rate. However, other factors can also play a role in the erosive aspect of combustion.

Thrust-to-weight ratio

The thrust-to-weight ratio is a scalar quantity affecting the acceleration of vehicles. It depends on several factors, including the car’s speed, the mass of its payload, and the remaining fuel. Other factors affecting performance include freestream air temperature, pressure, density, composition, and buoyancy. For a car engine, the thrust-to-weight ratio is calculated by multiplying the vehicle’s weight (full fuel) by the acceleration of gravity.

Considering all of these factors, the thrust-to-weight ratio of a rocket or car engine is not a simple calculation. To properly evaluate rocket or car engines, they should be tested under controlled conditions. These factors include the freestream air temperature, density, composition, and pressure. Moreover, progressive fuel consumption, buoyancy, and the local gravitational field strength may also affect the effective weight.

The thrust-to-weight ratio is the ratio of thrust and weight and measures the performance of a vehicle or rocket engine. It varies continuously during operation and depends on the initial thrust. The thrust-to-weight ratio is generally 1.4 or less, but rocket engines can have as low as one.

What is the Difference Between Car Engines and Rocket Engines? image 0

Compared with car engines, hydrogen-fueled rocket engines have a lower thrust-to-weight ratio but a higher specific impulse. Their thrust-to-weight ratios are slightly lower than those of their kerosene-fueled counterparts. However, this is a function of different combustion cycles. While a hydrogen-fueled rocket engine utilizes an expander cycle, a kerosene-fueled machine adopts a staged combustion cycle.

Fuel type

Rocket and car engines use various types of fuels to produce thrust. In a rocket, the kind of fuel determines how efficient the engine is. Scientists measure the efficiency of powers by the vehicle-specific impulse, which measures the change in momentum per unit of energy expended. Rockets generate thrust through the combustion of fuels, but the density of the propellant also matters. Rockets generally use powers with high specific impulses but low density.

A typical liquid rocket uses two propellants: liquid fuel and liquid oxidizer. They are mixed only after injection into the combustion chamber. The power and oxidizer may be fed into the combustion chamber by pumps or by the pressure of the fuel tanks. In one experiment, researchers used a high-speed camera to record the combustion process in a rocket’s engine. They then developed a mathematical model to simulate the videos.

Car engines use gasoline, while rocket engines use liquid hydrogen or oxygen. Fuel is a chemical that is oxidized to produce hot gas. The combustion process produces exhaust gas, which passes through a nozzle and triggers thrust. While car and rocket engines differ in fuel, the basic principle remains the same.

What is the Difference Between Car Engines and Rocket Engines? image 1


Car engines and rocket engines are both powered by combustion. Their main structural component is the motor case. It comprises front and aft domes that have suitable openings. It also contains fixtures for attaching the nozzle and igniter. These structures are vital to the functioning of the rocket.

Chemical rockets are powered by hydrogen and oxygen. This combination provides excellent performance, even at high temperatures. The hydrogen molecule is about one-sixteenth the mass of oxygen. Adding excess fuel to the mixture increases its molecular mass and thus improves performance. However, a rocket engine’s high pressure and temperature cause it to corrode.

A liquid-propellant rocket engine is one of the most complicated rocket engines. It uses a mixture of liquid fuel and an oxidizer to propel gaseous fuel through a nozzle. The exhaust gases of these engines typically reach exit velocities of five to ten thousand miles per hour.


A car engine works by producing mechanical motion, and a rocket engine produces thrust. Both engines use air as oxidizers. Car engines are cycle-operated, while rocket engines operate continuously. Both use a similar process but differ in a few crucial ways. The primary difference between the two is in their approach to reducing temperature.

Rate article
Add a comment