Propellant Ingredients

A number of relatively common propellant ingredients are listed in Table 12-6 for double-base propellants and in Table 12-7 for composite-type solid propellants. They are categorized by major function, such as oxidizer, fuel, binder, plasticizer, curing agent, and so on, and each category is described in this section. However, several of the ingredients have more than one function. These lists are not complete and at least 200 other ingredients have been tried in experimental rocket motors.

A classification of modern propellants, including some new types that are still in the experimental phase, is given in Table 12-8, according to their binders, plasticizers, and solid ingredients; these solids may be an oxidizer, a solid fuel, or a combination or compound of both.

The ingredient properties and impurities can have a profound effect on the propellant characteristics. A seemingly minor change in one ingredient can cause measurable changes in ballistic properties, physical properties, migration, aging, or ease of manufacture. When the propellant's performance or ballistic characteristics have tight tolerances, the ingredient purity and properties must also conform to tight tolerances and careful handling (e.g., no exposure to moisture). In the remainder of this section a number of the important ingredients, grouped by function, are briefly, discussed.

Inorganic Oxidizers

Some of the thermochemical properties of several oxidizers and oxygen radical-containing compounds are listed in Table 12-9. Their values depend on the chemical nature of each ingredient.

Ammonium perchlorate (NH4CIO4) is the most widely used crystalline oxidizer in solid propellants. Because of its good characteristics, including compatibility with other propellant materials, good performance, quality, uniformity, and availability, it dominates the solid oxidizer field. Other solid oxidizers, particularly ammonium nitrate and potassium perchlorate, were used and occasionally are still being used in production rockets but to a large extent have been replaced by more modern propellants containing ammonium perchlorate. Many oxidizer compounds were investigated during the 1970s, but none reached production status.

TABLE 12-6. Typical Ingredients of Double-Base (DB) Propellants and Composite-Modified Double-Base (CMDB) Propellants




Typical Chemicals


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