and/or have a change in propellant. There are some newer propellants that are more resistant to these stimuli and are therefore preferred for tactical missile applications, even though there is usually a penalty in propulsion performance. If explosions (not detonations) occur, it may be possible to redesign the motor and mitigate the effects of the explosion (make it less violent). For example, the case can have a provision to vent itself prior to an explosion. Changes to the shipping container can also mitigate some of these effects. If the result is a fire (an acceptable result), it should be confined to the particular grain or motor. Under some circumstances a burst failure of the case is acceptable.

Upper Pressure Limit

If the pressure-rise rate and the absolute pressure become extremely high (as in some impact tests or in the high acceleration of a gun barrel), some propellants will detonate. For many propellants these pressures are above approximately 1500 MPa or 225,000 psi, but for others they are lower (as low as 300 MPa or 45,000 psi). They represent an upper pressure limit beyond which a propellant should not operate.


A large share of all rockets do not have a significant toxicity problem. A number of propellant ingredients (e.g., some crosslinking agents and burning rate catalysts) and a few of the plastics used in fiber-reinforced cases can be dermatological or respiratory toxins; a few are carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) or suspected carcinogens. They, and the mixed uncured propellant containing these materials, have to be handled carefully to prevent operator exposure. This means using gloves, face shields, good ventilation, and, with some high-vapor-pressure ingredients, gas masks. The finished or cured grain or motor is usually not toxic.

The exhaust plume gases can be very toxic if they contain beryllium or berylium oxide particles, chlorine gas, hydrochloric acid gas, hydrofluoric acid gas, or some other fluorine compounds. When an ammonium perchlorate oxidizer is used, the exhaust gas can contain up to about 14% hydrochloric acid. For large rocket motors this can be many tons of highly toxic gas. Test and launch facilities for rockets with toxic plumes require special precautions and occasionally special decontamination processes, as explained in Chapter 20.

Safety Rules

The most effective way to control hazards and prevent accidents is (1) to train personnel in the hazards of each propellant of concern and to teach them how to avoid hazardous conditions, prevent accidents, and how to recover from an accident; (2) to design the motors, facilities, and the equipment to be safe; and

(3) to institute and enforce rigid safety rules during design, manufacture, and operation. There are many such rules. Examples are no smoking and no matches in areas where there are propellants or loaded motors, wearing spark-proof shoes and using spark-proof tools, shielding all electrical equipment, providing a water-deluge fire extinguishing system in test facilities to cool motors or extinguish burning, or proper grounding of all electrical equipment and items that could build up static electrical charges.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

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