Lesson 9: Solid Rocket Propulsion Basics

MAE 5391
Lesson 6:
Solid Rocket
Dr. Andrew Ketsdever
Solid Rocket Motors
• A solid rocket motor is a system that uses solid
propellants to produce thrust
• Advantages
High thrust
High density Isp
• Disadvantages
Low Isp (compared to liquids)
Complex throttling
Difficult to stop and restart
Solid Rocket Motors
• Solid rocket motors are used for
– Launch vehicles
• High thrust (high F/W ratio)
• High storage density
– Ballistic Missiles
• Propellant storability
• Excellent aging
• Quick response
– storability
– high F/W ratio)
Solid Rocket Motor Components
Thermal Insulation
• Design involves:
– Analysis of combustion chamber environment
• Stagnation temperature
• Stagnation pressure
• Propellant gases (material compatibility)
– Selection of insulation material
– Material thickness determination for various
areas of the motor case
– For the cylindrical part of the case, the walls
are only exposed to hot combustion gases at
the end of the burn
The Nozzle
• The design of the nozzle follows similar
steps as for other thermodynamic rockets
– Throat area determined by desired stagnation
pressure and thrust level
– Expansion ratio determined by ambient
pressure or pressure range to allow maximum
• Major difference for solid propellant
nozzles is the technique used for cooling
– Ablation
– Fiber reinforced material used in and near the
nozzle throat (carbon, graphite, silica,
• Meteorite
– Re-entry speed of 10 - 20 km/sec
– Extreme heating in the atmosphere
– Ablation and internal energy modes cooled the
meteorite through its fall
• Ablation gas cloud
• Dissociation
• Internal energy deposition
– Stony-Iron Classification
• (95% of all meteorites)
Ignition System
• Large solid motors typically use a three-stage
ignition system
– Initiator: Pyrotechnic element that converts electrical
impulse into a chemical reaction (primer)
– Booster charge
– Main charge: A charge (usually a small solid motor) that
ignites the propellant grain. Burns for tenths of a second
with a mass flow about 1/10 of the initial propellant grain
mass flow.
Propellant Grain
• Two main catagories
– Double Base: A homogeneous propellant
grain, usually nitrocellulose dissolved in
nitroglycerin. Both ingredients are explosive
and act as a combined fuel, oxidizer and
– Composite: A heterogeneous propellant grain
with oxidizer crystals and powdered fuel held
together in a matrix of synthetic rubber binder.
• Less hazardous to manufacture and handle
Conventional Composite
• Fuel
– 5-22% Powdered Aluminum
• Oxidizer
– 65-70% Ammonium Perchlorate (NH4ClO4 or
• Binder
– 8-14% HydroxylTerminated
Polybutadiene (HTPB)
• Aluminum (Al)
– Molecular Weight: 26.98 kg/kmol
– Density: 2700 kg/m3
– Most commonly used
• Magnesium (Mg)
– Molecular Weight: 24.32 kg/kmol
– Density: 1750 kg/m3
– Clean burning (green)
• Beryllium (Be)
– Molecular Weight: 9.01 kg/kmol
– Density: 2300 kg/m3
– Most energetic, but extremely toxic exhaust products
• Ammonium Perchlorate (AP)
– Most commonly used
– Cl combining with H can form HCl
• Toxic
• Depletion of ozone
• Ammonium Nitrate (AN)
– Next most commonly used
– Less expensive than AP
– Less energetic
– No hazardous exhaust products
• Hydroxyl Terminated Polybutadiene
– Most commonly used
– Consistency of tire rubber
• Polybutadiene Acrylonitrile
• Nitrocellulose (PNC)
– Double base agent
• Used to promote
– Curing
– Enhanced burn rate (HMX)
– Bonding
– Reduced radiation through
the grain (darkening)
– Satisfactory aging
– Reduced cracking

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