I have seen "engine skirt" and "engine nozzle" both used for the bell-shaped end of a rocket engine. Is there a difference?


2 Answers 2


The terminology is even less rigorous than that! Skirt, nozzle, and bell can informally refer to the same thing.

Bell seems to be shorthand for bell nozzle, a common shape for a nozzle.

One chapter in a book (preview) confusingly does not distinguish between skirt, skirts, and skirt structures. "Skirts" suggests Victorian hoop skirts, which indeed look like the loud end of a rocket. But in clothing at least the plural usage has become archaic, so that may be where the singular "skirt" came from.

Two special cases distinguish nozzle from skirt, though:

  • An expanding nozzle has two skirts. Here the nozzle is (as usual) the structure that converts high pressure gas into high speed gas, but it does so by means of two concentric skirts, one at a time.

    A plug nozzle as in a garden hose sprayer again converts pressure into speed, but with a blockage in the middle of the flow. So here the nozzle is the entire structure, while the skirt is just the outer wall, excluding the central blockage.

Lijat's answer is a third example of a skirt being part of a nozzle.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1, I've heard "bells" quite a bit in my work experience when talking about nozzles, "skirts" never. In shuttle a "skirt" was a (usually) flared region but not of an engine. The aft most structural part of an SRB (not the nozzle, but the outward flaring bottom end of the tube) was called the "aft skirt". Confusingly the SRB "forward skirt" was a cylinder! $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2019 at 19:22
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ More cylindrical "skirts" are on the Saturn V, namely the shrouds around the engine nozzles for all stages except the first. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2019 at 19:26

In this article they use skirt to describe a nozzel extension for an upper stage engine. https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/3.57282?journalCode=jsr


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