This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001. Latest version can be found at www.astronautix.com

astronautix.com LF2/UDMH





Oxidiser: LF2. Oxidiser Density: 1.51 g/cc. Oxidiser Freezing Point: -219.00 deg C. Oxidiser Boiling Point: -188.00 deg C.

Liquid Fluorine is the highest performance oxidiser and in the early 1960's it seemed in both American and Russia that a new generation of higher performance engines would emerge. However although test engines were built, fluorine was found to be just too toxic and reactive to be safely used as a propellant. Liquid fluorine is essentially 100 per cent pure, containing only traces of oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen fluoride. The liquid exhibits a clear; yellow colour, while the gas has a pale greenish-yellow colour at ambient temperature. Fluorine is the strongest oxidising agent known. Under proper conditions, fluorine reacts with practically every element or compound except the inert gases. It is stable to shock, heat, and electric spark. It is non-flammable with air. Fluorine is highly toxic and irritating to all tissues. It has a characteristic pungent halogen odour and is irritating to the respiratory tract. Fluorine is produced from a molten mixture of HF and KF by an electrolytic procedure. The 1959 United. States production of liquid fluorine was estimated at 40,000 tonnes/year. Liquid fluorine's cost, ex-works, was then $ 6.00 per kg. In the Soviet Union Glushko founded a plant for production of fluorine propellants 23 km from Leningrad at Karlelsko. The population eventually reached 120,000, but although one engine was ready for production, this was never authorised due to the safety problems in case of a launch vehicle failure.


Fuel: UDMH. Fuel Density: 0.79 g/cc. Fuel Freezing Point: -57.00 deg C. Fuel Boiling Point: 63.00 deg C.

Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine ((CH3)2NNH2) became the storable liquid fuel of choice by the mid-1950's. Development of UDMH in the Soviet Union began in 1949. It is used in virtually all storable liquid rocket engines except for some orbital manoeuvring engines in the United States, where MMH has been preferred due to a slightly higher density and performance. Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) is 98 to 99 per cent pure and is described by Military Specification MIL-D-25604. The normally expected impurities are dimethylamine and water. UDMH is a clear, hygroscopic liquid which yellows on exposure to air. It absorbs oxygen and carbon dioxide. UDMH is a toxic volatile liquid. It exhibits the sharp ammoniacal or fishy odour which is characteristic of organic amines. It is completely miscible with water, ethanol, and most petroleum fuels. It is not shock sensitive. The vapours are flammable in air over 2.5 to 95 per cent concentration range. UDMH can be produced commercially by nitrosation of dimethylamine, to N-nitro-sodimethylrtmine, followed by reduction of the intermediate to UDMH and subsequent purification. UDMH can be prepared, also, by a modification of the Raschig process (see discussion of hydrazine), in which the chloramine intermediate is with dimethylamine rather than with ammonia. The price in 1959 for tank-car quantities was under $ 1.00 per kg. Engineering studies indicated a price of $ 1.00 per kg with large scale sustained production. But due to its toxic nature, production and transport costs soared in response to environmental regulations. By the 1980's NASA was paying $ 24.00 per kg.


Back to Index
Last update 3 May 2001.
Contact Mark Wade with any corrections or comments.
Conditions for use of drawings, pictures, or other materials from this site..
© Mark Wade, 2001 .