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).
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.
black powder type rocket propellants are
well-described in several of our classic
fireworks handbooks, including those by
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
Basics by Thiokol Propulsion
for the science and technology of modern
composite solid propellants is
well-documented in several NASA technical
reports, including: History of