Rocket propellants

Black powder propellants

Shimizu Lancaster Urbanski Urbanski Visser Visser Estes
name German rockets American rockets Type-C model
rocket engine
Black powder 0-12
Sodium nitrate 69
Potassium nitrate 59-64 61 60 59 72 71.79
Sulfur 8-13 5 15 10 4 4 13.45
Charcoal, 150 mesh 20-31 20 25 31 27 24 13.81
Charcoal, 40 mesh 14
Dextrin 0.95

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Nitrate/sugar-based propellants

Candy propellant Teleflite propellant
Potassium nitrate 74.5 63
Sucrose 25.5 27
Sulfur 10

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Composite ammonium perchlorate-based propellants

Visser NASA
name Shuttle booster
rocket propellant
Ammonium perchlorate 80 69.9
Resin1 20
Polybutadiene 12.04
Epoxy curing agent 1.96
Aluminum powder 16
Red iron oxide 0.07
Copper chromite +1

1  - Epon 815 epoxy & curing agent U

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Composite ammonium nitrate-based propellants

Urbanski Urbanski Visser
name Oxidizing mix AMT-2011
Ammonium nitrate 72 72.79 85-90
Sodium nitrate 16
Ammonium dichromate 8 1.99
Ammonium chloride 4
Urethane plastic 10-15
Genpol A-20 polyester
Methyl acrylate 12.22
Styrene 2.22
Methyl ethyl ketone 0.49
Cobalt octanoate
(1% in styrene)
Lecithin (10%
in styrene)

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Composite potassium perchlorate-based propellants

Zaehringer Altermann and
Altermann and
Altermann and
Altermann and
name Galcit Alt 161 Aeroplex K I Aeroplex K II Aeroplex K III Aeroplex K IV
Potassium perchlorate 75 80 77.5 75 70
Asphalt with mineral
oil or resin
Methyl polymethacrylate 20 22.5 25 30

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Thiokol propellants

NOTE: These propellants are based on polyethylene sulfide rubbers mixed with ammonium perchlorate. According to the Thiokol Cehmical Corporation, liquid thiokol is produced by condensing ethylene chlorohydrin to dichlorodiethylformal, which is then treated with sodium polysulfide to obtain the finished product. See Chemical Formulas for the structure of liquid thiokol.

The proportion for liquid thiokol to perchlorate is usually 20-40% thiokol to 60-80% perchlorate. There are six types of thiokol liquid polymer (LP): LP-2, LP-3, LP-31, LP-32, LP-33, and LP-8. According to Urbanski, the difference in the polymers lies in the degree of polymerization or cross-linking. Curing the thiokol polymers is done with a special curing compound, composition C, for 24 hours at 80oF, then pressed for 10 minutes at 287-310oF.. Proportions for LP to C is 100 parts LP to 10-15 parts C.

The table for the liquid polymers is in parts by weight. The table for composition C is in percent.

Thiokol Chemical Corp. Thiokol Chemical Corp. Thiokol Chemical Corp. Thiokol Chemical Corp.
name LP-31 LP-2 LP-32 Composition C
Thiokol LP 100 100 100
Lead peroxide 50
Sulfur 0.15 0.1
Carbon black 30 30
Stearic acid 1 1 1 5
Dibutyl phthalate 45
Soot (or zinc sulfide or lithopone) 30-50

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Whistling propellants

NOTE: Whistle rockets must be made in the same way as a standard firework whistle, in the sense that it must be pressed very firmly for it to produce a whistling effect. The catalyst can be any metal oxide, though the usual ones used are titanium dioxide, copper oxychloride, and red iron oxide.

DANGER: Whistle compositions should NEVER be rammed. They must be pressed or an explosion may result.

Vhryens Barr Steinberg Steinberg Best AFN 3
Potassium perchlorate 64 64 73 70 76
Sodium benzoate 32 26 30
Sodium salicylate 32 23
Catalyst 1 1 1 +1 1
Petroleum jelly 3 3 +2.5 +5 +3

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Strobing propellants

NOTE: Strobe rockets function similar to strobe stars in that the reaction oscillates between flash and smoulder phase. The first formula given to me by John Steinberg can have the barium sulfate replaced with various other metal sulfates to obtain different colors.

DANGER: Copper sulfate can not be used in the first formula to produce a blue strobe. Copper sulfate absorbs moisture readily from the surrounding atmosphere. This moisture would then cause the magnesium and ammonium perchlorate to react producing heat, and eventually spontaneous combustion.

Barr Burdick
Ammonium perchlorate 60 63
Barium sulfate 15
Black copper oxide 10
GE Silicone II 22
Magnalium, -200 mesh 23.5
Magnesium, 100 mesh, flake 1.5
Potassium dichromate +5
solvent 10% NC lacquer not needed

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Other propellants

NOTE: The zinc/sulfur mixture is not a very efficient propellant due to its low specific impulse. In addition, the relatively high density of zinc adds much weight to the rocket, further reducing the propellant's effectiveness.

Zinc/sulfur propellant
Zinc powder 67.1
Sulfur 32.9

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Last updated May 16, 1997.
Copyright (C) 1997, Andrew Krywonizka. All rights reserved.

This site has been accessed times since 11/16/97.