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Solid Propellant Test

Propellant is needed to launch a rocket for specific mission and can be either in solid or liquid or gaseous state . Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages . For example , complicated piping and pumping equipment are required for the liquid state propellants in order to feed their engines so that greater propulsive thrust can be provided and their power can be throttled , but a lot of time is needed to set up and build up this thrust when first ignited . Meanwhile for the solid propellants , such complicated engines or plumbing are not required , but sophisticated chemistry and strong casing are needed to withstand the intense pressures that will be generated , and solid propellants can fire much faster , more thrust can be provided to accelerate faster at liftoff , but they cannot be throttled in flight . So , for solid propellants , they are a mixture of different chemicals , the oxidizing agent and the reducing agent or fuel . In this lab , potassium nitrate , ferric oxide and epoxy 5:2 are used to make the solid propellants . Potassium nitrate acts as an oscillator , which is in powder form , and ferric oxide is the fuel which is a fluid of varying consistency , and epoxy 5:2 is the binder , or known as catalyst . After they are measured in certain percentage which will be discussed later , they are then mixed and blended together and pour into the casing , or the rocket case carefully . And how does a solid propellant work ? The theory works behind is quite simple , as for common sense , oxygen and heat are needed for combustion . And thus , a solid propellant needs oxygen to work , so that a combustion process is started . This is how a solid propellant looks like in this lab after prepared :

Figure 1 : Solid Propellant Structure When a spark is ignited , the combustion process is started . The mixture of solid and fuel is burned and if the structure is an open structure , which means both ends are not enclosed , so it is a simple combustion process where the gaseous are released from both ends . But if one of the ends is enclosed , while another still remains open , then during the combustion process , the gaseous and trapped inside the structure , since

there exists only an exit for the gaseous to be released , thrust is then provided by the released pressure accumulated inside the structure at that exit , which is an action force to launch an rocket . The binder and epoxy also burn as the fuel burns, thus contributing to the overall thrust produced and the efficiency is increased .

Figure 2 : Action and Reaction Force of a Solid Propellant The burning mechanism in a solid propellant starts from inner surface , and burn throughout till the outer surface , and this is what we called as Burning Rate , which means how fast will the material is burned till finish .

Inner Diameter

Outer Diameter

Burning Profile Figure 3 : Burning Rates Process of a Solid Propellant Then , the Burning Period is different with Burning Rate . Burning Period is the time taken to burn the whole stick of the solid propellant . So burning period depends on the length , inner and outer diameter , but the burning rate depends on inner and outer diameter only and independent to the length .

To prepare a solid propellant and learn how it works and calculate its burning rate and burning period .

Spatula , Iron Bowl , Blender or Mixer and Weighing Scales , PVC paip , Plastic Cover , Scissors , Gloves , Surgical Mask , Stopwatch , Lighter and Tissue Paper

Potassium Nitrate , Ferric Oxide , Epoxy and Sulfur Powder

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Potassium Nitrate is oscillated till smooth using a blender . Same blender is not used for several times . Every single ingredient is separated accordingly . A container is put on the weighing scales and the reading is reset to 0 . A total weight of mixture required is 200g . Potassium nitrate with a percentage of 69% is poured inside the container . Ferric oxide with a percentage of 8% is then poured inside the same container . The mixture of potassium nitrate and ferric oxide is then transferred to a new iron bowl , and blended well . 9. Epoxy 5:2 with a percentage of 23% is then prepared and stirred well . 10. The epoxy is then added slowly into the mixture in the iron bowl . 11. All mixture is now stirred well . 12. 2 PVC paip are prepared , and the inner surface is enclosed by plastic cover . 13. The mixed mixture is now put inside both PVC paips slowly . 14. When the mixture is shaped , bubbles gas trapped inside are released when the mixtures are removed from the paip . 15. The mixtures are then dried in the sun . 16. 2 solid propellants are now prepared . 17. The length , inner and outer diameter of both propellants are then measured and labeled . 18. A solid propellant is now put on a tissue paper with sulfur powder . 19. The tissue paper is burned using a lighter . 20. The time to complete the combustion process of a solid propellant is recorded using a stopwatch . 21. The steps 19 till 21 are repeated for the rest of the solid propellants .

Since 200g is the total weight , then 69% of Potassium Nitrate = 200g X 0.69 = 138g = 200g X 0.08 = 16g

8% of Ferric Oxide

23% of epoxy 5:2

= 200g X 0.23 = 46g = 46g / 7 X 5 = 32.86g

the content of epoxy

For Sample 1 , Burning Rate

= = = 0.06511

Burning Period

= = = 0.6634

Same calculation goes to Sample 2 and 3 .

Length ( cm ) Inner Diameter ( cm ) Outer Diameter ( cm ) Combustion Time ( s ) Burning Rate ( ) 0.06511 0.07357 0.07883 Burning Period ( ) 0.6634 0.7721 0.8230


1 2 3

10.80 10.81 10.65

0.58 0.57 0.61

2.70 2.63 2.65

16.28 14.00 12.94

1. Potassium Nitrate is oscillated well to provide more surface area and prevent big particles which will affect the combustion time . 2. When pouring the epoxy , we have to be careful , use a stick to allow the epoxy to follow the stick direction to be poured inside the container . 3. Epoxy 5:2 is used as epoxy 5:1 required in the lab sheet is not available in the lab .

4. The inner surface of the PVC paip is enclosed by plastic to avoid the mixture sticks at the inner surface and affects the surface area of the mixture after being shaped . 5. The mixture has to be dried in the sun for 12 hours for complete solidification . 6. From the result , solid propellant sample 1 has the longest combustion time which 16.28s , follow by sample 2 which is 14s and sample 3 has the lowest combustion time which is around 13s . 7. While Sample 1 has the lowest value of burning rate and burning profile which are 0.06511 and 0.6634 , followed by sample 2 which are 0.07357 and 0.7721 , then Sample 3 has the highest value for both burning rate and burning period , which are 0.07883 and 0.8230 . 8. The time for combustion greatly depends on the structure of the solid propellant . 9. For Burning rates , it is directly proportional to the difference of outer and inner diameter . So , if the outer diameter is smaller , and the inner diameter is bigger , the burning rate is fast since less material can be burned from inner surface to outer surface because there are more air enters the perforation for burning and thus decrease then time taken where the burning rate will be increased . This is the case for Sample 3 , where it has the biggest inner diameter and a smaller outer diameter than Sample 1 . And for Sample 1 , since it has the biggest outer diameter yet smallest inner diameter , so it takes more time to burn from inner surface to outer surface , which results a slower burning rate than Sample 3. Sample 2 has a burning rate between Sample 1 and 3 since its measurement parameters are between them . 10. And for burning period , its does simply directly proportional to the length . Generally a longer length needs more time to be burned till finish . Observe the measurement in result table , Sample 1 has the biggest outer diameter , smaller inner diameter and long length . So it means it has a lot of material to be burn compare to Sample 3 where it has the shortest length , biggest inner diameter and a smaller outer diameter than Sample 1 . So , Sample 1 needs more time to burn the whole stick as the material is more than Sample 3 , as a result Sample 1 has a longer combustion time . Since combustion time for Sample 1 is longer , so it has a smaller burning period than Sample 3 . Sample 2 has a burning period between Sample 1 and 3 since its measurement parameters are between them . 11. And for thrust , from figure 1 , the perforation , which is also the inner diameter , is where thrust occur . So , it means that when the perforation is bigger , which means the inner diameter is bigger , more thrust will be produced but the fuel will burn for a smaller time since the propellant is being consumed at an accelerated rate . Inversely , a smaller perforation produces lesser thrust , and thus more combustion time . So sample 3 will have the highest thrust , follow by Sample 1 and Sample 2 has the lowest thrust since it has the smallest inner diameter .

12. The result may differ from actual result because of : Humans reflection system to start the stopwatch at the moment as the combustion processes begin and finish Impurities in mixture Content of mixture measured and round-off error in taking measurement Amount of sulfur used to initiate a combustion process The out-looking of the solid propellants ( Holes ) Preparation of solid propellants is imperfect ( Amount of mixture used in PVC paip , the concentration or intensity or bubbles trapped ) 13. So , for combustion time among those 3 solid propellants , Sample 1 > Sample 2 > Sample 3 14. For thrust produced , Sample 3 > Sample 1 > Sample 2 15. For burning rates , Sample 3 > Sample 2 > Sample 1 16. For burning period , Sample 3 > Sample 2 > Sample 1

So , for combustion time among those 3 solid propellants , Sample 1 > Sample 2 > Sample 3 For thrust produced , Sample 3 > Sample 1 > Sample 2 For burning rates , Sample 3 > Sample 2 > Sample 1 For burning period , Sample 3 > Sample 2 > Sample 1

1. 2. 3.