In many space missions, expandable or reusable launch systems are used. In this context, the reliable design of liquid rocket engines (LREs) is a key issue. In the present paper, we present a novel combination of numerical schemes. It is applied to model the extreme physical phenomena a typical LRE undergoes during its loading cycles. The numerical scheme includes a partitioned fluid–structure interaction (FSI) algorithm in combination with a unified viscoplastic damage model. This allows the complex description of the material response under cyclic thermomechanical loading taking place in LREs. In this regard, we focus on the response of the cooling channel wall that is made from copper alloys. For the coupled FSI analysis, the individual domains of the rocket thrust chamber are modeled by a 3D parametrized approach. The well-established single field solver codes, DLR TAU for the hot gas and ABAQUS FE software for the structural domain, are coupled via the inhouse developed simulation environment ifls. Ifls provides the necessary algorithms for a partitioned coupling approach such as individual code steering, data interpolation, time integration and iteration control. Finally, the results of an FSI analysis of a complete engine cycle are presented. They show the potential of the new numerical scheme for the lifetime prediction of LREs.Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.