Hydrogen is adopted as coolant for regenerative cooling nozzle and reactor core in nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP), which is a promising technology for human space exploration in the near future due to its large thrust and high specific impulse. During the cooling process, the hydrogen alters its state from subcritical to supercritical, accompanying with great variations of fluid properties and heat transfer characteristics. This paper is intended to study heat transfer processes of supercritical pressure hydrogen under extremely high heat flux by using numerical approach. To begin with, the models explaining the variation of density, specific heat capacity, viscosity, and thermal conductivity are introduced. Later on, the convective heat transfer to supercritical pressure hydrogen in a straight tube is investigated numerically by employing a computational model, which is simplified from experiments performed by Hendricks et al. During the simulation, the standard k–ε model combining the enhanced wall treatment is used to formulate the turbulent viscosity, and the results validates the approach through successful prediction of wall temperature profile and bulk temperature variation. Besides, the heat transfer deterioration which may occur in the heat transport of supercritical fluids is also observed. According to the results, it is deduced that the flow acceleration to a flat velocity profile in the near wall region due to properties variation of hydrogen contributes to the suppression of turbulence and the heat transfer deterioration, while the “M-shaped” velocity profile is more often correlated to the starting of a recovery phase of turbulence production and heat transfer.

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