This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001. Latest version can be found at Nitric acid/Amine

Oxidiser: Nitric Acid. Oxidiser Density: 1.51 g/cc. Oxidiser Freezing Point: -42.00 deg C. Oxidiser Boiling Point: 86.00 deg C.

Drawing on the German World War II Wasserfall rocket, nitric acid (HNO3) became the early storable oxidiser of choice for missiles and upper stages of the 1950's. To overcome various problems with its use, it was necessary to combine the nitric acid with N2O4 and passivation compounds. These formulae were considered extremely secret at the time. The propellant combinations WFNA/ JP-4 and later IRFNA/JP-4 were the first storable systems given serious consideration in the United States. Problems which caused the abandoning of these propellants were the absence of reliable hypergolic ignition and unstable combustion. IRFNA/UDMH and IRFNA/JP-X finally did prove satisfactory.

By the late 1950's it was apparent that N2O4 by itself was a better oxidiser. Therefore nitric acid was almost entirely replaced by pure N2O4 in storable liquid fuel rocket engines developed after 1960. The composition of propellant-grade nitric acids is covered by Military Specification MIL-N-7254. The nitric acids are fuming liquids which vary from colorless to brown, depending on the amount of dissolved N2O4. The vapours from these acids have a characteristic pungent odour. They are highly corrosive, toxic, oxidising agents and attack most metals. They react with most organic materials violently enough to cause fire. The acids are soluble in water in all proportions, with an accompanying evolution of heat. They cannot be made to explode. Approximately 90 per cent of the nitric acid is made by the catalytic oxidation of ammonia with air or oxygen to yield nitric oxide (NO). The latter is oxidised to N2O4 which, when treated with water, yields nitric acid (HNO3) and may be concentrated by distillation with sulphuric acid. Red fuming nitric acids may be produced by passing gaseous N2O4 into nitric acid, a slight modification of the above process. Production of nitric acid was estimated at 3 million tonnes in 1959. The price of RFNA was $ 0.20 per kg in drum lots; IRFNA was slightly higher. The varieties of nitric acid propellants include:

Fuel: Amine.

Early storable rocket systems sought to improve ignition characteristics and perforamance by eliminating the kerosene portion of the fuel. Such mixed amine fuels were first developed by the Germans in World War II. TONKA-250, developed for the Wasserfall rocket, was used by the Russians after the war in various engines under the specification TG-02. TONKA-259 was 50% xylidine and 50% triethylamine by weight. In the United States such fuels included Hydyne.

Engines Using Nitric acid/Amine

Eng-engineslink Thrust(vac)-kgf Thrust(vac)-kN Isp-sec Isp (sea level)-sec Designed for Status
S2.721V 1,200 11.80     First Stages Developed 1956-
Isayev P-15 1,213 11.90     First Stages Out of Production
S5.4 1,614 15.83 266   Upper Stages Out of Production
Isayev V-750V 3,100 30.40     First Stages Out of Production
S2.720 3,498 34.30   233 First Stages Out of Production
KTDU-5A 4,643 45.50 287 117 Upper Stages Out of Production
RD-0201 5,920 58.06 260   First Stages Out of Production
RD-0200 5,996 58.80   230 First Stages Out of Production
S09.29 9,000 88.00     First Stages Out of Production
S5.1 17,000 167.00     First Stages Out of Production
S5.44 18,000 177.00   251 First Stages Out of Production
S2.713 25,717 252.20     First Stages Out of Production
S5.3 40,000 392.00     First Stages Out of Production
S5.3M 40,452 396.70   241 First Stages Out of Production
S2.1150 68,440 671.20 250 218 First Stages Developed 1953-59

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Last update 3 May 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .