Rocket Science Institute
            is a non-profit scientific & educational organization
            supporting "amateur" experimental rocket science,
            engineering & technology


Thinking of Mixing Your Own Rocket Fuels?

Mixing rocket propellants is genuine, unadulterated rocket science.
Rocket science made (more)
          simple



Updated: 15 March 2016



First, the author of this little guide has more than 50 years hands-on experience working with rocket propellants, pyrotechnics, explosives, and high-energy chemicals.  I still have both eyes and all my fingers, and I would like to offer a few suggestions that might help you preserve your own life and limbs. 

Next, let's understand and accept that rocket propellants are powerful, energetic, and potentially dangerous.  Even a tiny bottle rocket, or a small pinch of black powder, can forever blind you.  It doesn't take much to blow off a finger, or worse.  In most cases, there are no "small accidents" when mixing, handling, storing, or using these powerful chemicals.  One very small error can ruin much more than your entire day.

The good news is that you can learn how to safely and legally handle rocket propellants and the chemicals to make them.  So the first step (if you're not a candidate for a Darwin Award) is to study, learn, and educate yourself before you begin.  Fortunately, there are excellent texts and handbooks devoted to this specific subject. 

Not only are many of the chemical ingredients potentially dangerous (explosive, highly flammable, or seriously toxic), an even bigger danger lurks under the consideration of incompatible mixtures.  You need to know that many common rocket propellant ingredients can become spontaneously explosive if incompatible chemicals are mixed.  This has happened more than a few times even in major propellant manufacturing factories. 

And how about static electricity?  You can produce a very tiny electrostatic spark by simply pouring ingredients from a container.  It's even easier to do by wearing certain kinds of clothes, especially on a dry day. 

Mixing rocket propellants is genuine, unadulterated rocket science.  Mixing propellants is NOT for the inexperienced, or the untrained.  You must know exactly what you are doing.  You must pay keen attention to the smallest details of every step of the process.  Murphy's Law prevails, and the consequences are usually not pretty if you're making your own propellant and something "goes wrong."

So before you open a bottle of oxidizer or begin sifting a fuel, study a professional textbook on safety when working with rocket propellants.  The very best book we have seen on this topic is Safety Manual for Amateur and Experimental Rocket Scientists (you'll find it in our eBay Store). 

Remember, it's not enough to read such books.  You need to memorize and remember the key rules, incorporate them into your procedures and checklists, and never allow a lapse or exception.

Simple black powder type rocket propellants are well-described in several of our classic fireworks handbooks, including those by Weingart (Pyrotechnics), Browne (Art of Pyrotechny), Davis (Chemistry of Powder & Explosives), and Cutbush (System of Pyrotechnics).  The Fort Sill Guide to Amateur Rocketry has good information on zinc dust-sulfur "micrograin" propellants. An excellent introduction to modern composite solid propellants, Solid Rocket History at Hercules  Rocket Basics by Thiokol Propulsion

And for the science and technology of modern composite solid propellants is well-documented in several NASA technical reports, including: History of Solid-Propellant Rocketry,  igniters, processing, characterization, 



The Rocket Science
                        Institute is a non-profit scientific and
                        educational foundation in support of
                        "amateur" experimental rocket science,
                        engineering & technology.

The Rocket Science Institute is a non-profit scientific and educational foundation in support of "amateur" experimental rocket science, engineering, and technology.

Rocket Science Institute, Inc., P.O. Box 1253, Carmel Valley CA 93924 USA   •   e-mail: rsi@rocketsciencebooks.com

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