solid propellant

A solid propellant is a rocket propellant in solid form used in a solid-propellant rocket motor. It usually contains both fuel and oxidizer combined, or mixed and formed, into a monolithic (not powdered or granulated) grain. There are two families of solids propellants: homogeneous and composite. Both types are dense, stable at ordinary temperatures, and easily storable.


Homogeneous propellants are either simple base or double base. A simple base propellant consists of a single compound, usually nitrocellulose, which has both an oxidation capacity and a reduction capacity. Double base propellants usually consist of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin, to which a plasticiser is added. Homogeneous propellants do not usually have specific impulses greater than about 210 seconds under normal conditions. Their main asset is that they do not produce traceable fumes and are, therefore, commonly used in tactical weapons. They are also often used to perform subsidiary functions such as jettisoning spent parts or separating one stage from another.


Modern composite propellants are heterogeneous powders (mixtures) which use a crystallized or finely ground mineral salt as an oxidizer, often ammonium perchlorate, which constitutes between 60% and 90% of the mass of the propellant. The fuel itself is aluminum. The propellant is held together by a polymeric binder, usually polyurethane or polybutadienes. Additional compounds are sometimes included, such as a catalyst to help increase the burning rate, or other agents to make the powder easier to manufacture. The final product is rubberlike substance with the consistency of a hard rubber eraser.