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"Unusual British Solid Propellants"

James Taylor, Ph.D.

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"Unusual British Solid Propellants"

James Taylor, Ph.D.
 Nobel Research Labs, Imperial Chemical Industries (UK)

Nitrate Propellants

And excellent book for amateur rocketeers interested in working with ammonium nitrate and other advanced oxidizers.  Comprehensive, accurate, and highly-detailed.

This is a study of ammonium nitrate, guanidine nitrate, and nitroguanidine as oxidizers for cool- and slow-burning gas generating compositions, and their use in rocket motors, pressurizing systems, engine starters, and a variety of highly unusual applications. 

Unusual British Solid Propellants

This keen book is loaded with hard-to-find information about several remarkable propellant types developed in the UK during the 1940s and 1950s.  At the time, British solid propellant research was moving along different lines from that going on in America and Germany.  It’s one of the few technical books about self-sustaining exothermic reactions we’ve seen that’s fairly easy for a non-chemist to understand. 

At the Nobel Explosives research labs in Scotland, Dr. James Taylor spent many years formulating all kinds of propellant mixtures based upon potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, guanidine nitrate, nitroguanidine, and other less-common chemicals.  Includes one of the best analyses of ammonium nitrate burn chemistry, a subject not widely understood among propellant developers.

NOTE:  Sample illustrations greatly reduced in size and resolution

Unusual British Solid Propellants

The text balances theory, formulae, and applications engineering.  Abundant data is given on numerous highly esoteric compounds suitable for nitrate-based propellant formulae.  While all the necessary equations and reactions are explained in great detail, this book is still quite easy for moderately advanced "amateur" rocket experimenters to understand and benefit from.

Potassium nitrate-based formulae are also investigated, as well as nitrocellulose-type propellants.  Extensive information is provided regarding the thermochemical reactions of ammonium nitrate and guanidine nitrate with numerous fuels, burn rate additives, catalysts, and binders.  Taylor investigated in great detail the thermochemistry of ammonium nitrate: how it passes through many phase changes as temperature increases, and how it decomposes stage by stage, sometimes in complex ways. 

Ammonium nitrate is a very common industrial material.  Millions of tons are used each year around the world for fertilizer alone.  It’s cheap and safe to handle (and legal, in most places).  Since it carries abundant oxygen (it is NH4NO3), “nitrate of ammonia” is a choice oxidizer for rocket propellant—if you can keep it burning under control.  (AN-type solid propellants tend to not be capable of self-sustaining burning at low pressures, and are sometimes prone to combustion instability at high pressures.) 

To round out the content, chapters are also devoted to power cartridges, gas-powered torpedoes, initiating and high explosives, fuses and delay trains, percussion caps, electric ignition, gasless reactions, and test operations.  Plates and illustrations cover a variety of unusual applications.

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Here’s a really good place to start if your thinking about making propellants based on ammonium nitrate.  There’s a lot of good information as well about potassium nitrate-type (black powder) solid propellants.  All in all, this remains one of the best books on advanced nitrate-based solid propellants of the "pre-composite era." 



Modern Gun Propellants
Thermochemistry of Propellants
Calorimetric Value, Gas Volume and Rate of Burning of Typical Gun Propellants
The Mechanism of Burning of Colloidal Propellants
Observations on Flame Structure
The Foam Reaction
The Fizz Zone
The Flame Zone
Other Observations on the Burning of Propellants
Development of Burning Theories
Stability of Propellants
Web Thickness of Typical Gun Propellants

Low-Temperature Gas-Producing Reactions Based on Nitrites

“Hydrox” Powder
Thermochemistry of “Hydrox” Powder
Alternative Mixtures
The Initiation of “Hydrox” Powder by Acidic Substances
Conditions Necessary for Initiating a Self-Sustained Reaction in “Hydrox” Powder
Description of the “Hydrox” Device
Improved Devices
Dispersion of Pesticides

Ammonium Nitrate, Guanidine Nitrate and Nitroguanidine Compositions

Safety Compositions for Blasting
The Decomposition of Ammonium Nitrate into Product Gases
Possible Modes of Decomposition of Ammonium Nitrate
Thermochemical Data for the Decomposition of Ammonium Nitrate
The Nature of the Chromate-Induced Decomposition
Blasting Devices Using Chromate Compositions
Propulsive Purposes
Other Compositions
Thermochemistry of Guanidine Nitrate, Nitroguanidine and Balanced Mixtures with Ammonium Nitrate
The Burning Laws of Ammonium Nitrate, Gunidine Nitrate, and Nitroguanidine Compositions
Smoke Generators for the Dispersion of Pesticides

Rocket Motors

Rockets and Rocket Motors
The Principles of Rocket Motor Operation
Liquid Propellants
Thermochemical Data for Liquid Monofuels
Solid-Propellant Motors
The Testing of Soliod-Propellant Rocket Motors

Solid Charges for Rockets and Propulsion

Cordite and Cast Double Base Charges
Compositions and Properties of Typical Cast Double Base Charges
Representative Compositions of Extruded and Cast Double Base Propellants
Composite Propellants
Cast Charges
Performance of Composite Propellants
Pressed Charges
Charge to Operate a Reciprocating Engine
Charge for Rotary Blower Motor


Instrumentation panel in a modern rocket-testing establishment
Guided-missile boost-rocket motor
Guided-missile sustainer-rocket motor
Propellant burning at 300 lb per sq in
“Hydrox” blasting cartridge
Apparatus for measuring the rate of burning of pressed compositions
Diagram of convergent-divergent nozzle
Diagram of solid-propellant rocket motor
Effects of rocket-chamber pressure and charge temperature on the rate of burning
Effect of propellant rate-of-burning index n on conditions and stability of operation
Red Shoes ground-to-air guided
Motor test vehicle at separation
Bristol/Ferranti Blookhound surface-to-air guided weapon
Thirteen-inch diameter boost-rocket motor
English Electric Thunderbird surface-to-air guided weapon
Typical designs of externally-inhibited propellant charges
Pressed ammonium nitrate propellant
Unstable condition of operation if rate-of-burning index is larger than unity
Typical ground-to-air guided missile
Booster rockets attached round the body of missile
Solid charge for actuating a small reciprocating engine
Solid charge for actuating a large reciprocating engine
Annular charge for driving a rotary blower motor 

This is a new, limited-edition, printed with a high-resolution laser printer (not photocopied) on high-quality, bright-white, acid-free paper for years of reference use.  Quality-bound, 84 pages, 5.5-inches wide by 8.5-inches high, with numerous plates, illustrations, tables, charts, equations, references, and a detailed index.  This exceptional text is not available anywhere else.   ISBN 1-878628-NEW.   $19.95 
USA (Insured Priority Mail: $3.85)
International (Priority Airmail: $9.85)

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Nitrate-type Propellants Group

Be sure to
                          see our historic books by Dr. Goddard and the
                          rare NASA texts!