Liquid Monopropellants

The propellant-feed and control-system simplicity associated with a monopro-pellant makes this type of propellant attractive for certain applications. Hydrazine is being used extensively as a monopropellant in small attitude and trajectory control rockets for the control of satellites and other spacecraft and also as a hot gas generator. (It is discussed in the preceding section.) Other monopropellants (ethylene oxide or nitromethane) were tried experimentally, but are no longer used today. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide was used for monopropellant gas generation in the USA, Russia, and Germany in engines designed before 1955.

Ignition of monopropellants can be produced thermally (electrical or flame heat) or by a catalytic material. A monopropellant must be chemically and thermally stable to insure good liquid storage properties, and yet it must be easily decomposed and reactive to give good combustion properties.

Hydrazine as a Monopropellant

Hydrazine is not only an excellent storable fuel, but also an excellent monopropellant when decomposed by a suitable solid or liquid catalyst; this catalyst often needs to be preheated for fast startup. Iridium is an effective catalyst at room temperature. At elevated temperature (about 450 K) many materials decompose hydrazine, including iron, nickel, and cobalt. See Ref. 7-8. Different catalysts and different reaction volumes make the decomposition reaction go to different products, resulting in gases varying in composition or temperature. As a monopropellant, it is used in gas generators or in space engine attitude control rockets.

Hydrazine has been stored in sealed tanks for over 15 years. A typical hydrazine monopropellant thrust chamber, its injection pattern, and its decomposition reaction are described in Chapter 10 and typical design parameters are shown in Fig. 7-3 and a monopropellant structure in Fig. 8-16.

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