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Extent and Impacts of Hydrocarbon Fuel Compositional Variability for Aerospace Propulsion Systems



Thomas J. Bruno, Tim Edwards, Linda M. Shafer, Matthew Billingsley


Kerosene fuels possess physical and chemical properties which make them attractive for aerospace propulsion applications from operational and performance standpoints. However, variation in fuel properties and performance owing to differences in chemical makeup can be significant as operating environments and fuel composition fall outside the realm of current experience. Both circumstances are increasingly frequent, given the incorporation of new fuels in existing systems and a desire to increase vehicle performance. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is actively engaged in deriving relationships between fuel composition, properties, and performance in realistic operating conditions. Ideally, these models will be incorporated in the optimization of fuel composition to meet requirements for future systems in the areas of alternative fuels certification, hypersonic vehicles, and liquid rocket propulsion systems. Moreover, current engine development activities prompt an assessment of as-supplied rocket kerosene, the set of requirements used for its specification, and the potential impacts compositional variations have on engine operability and performance. To address these needs, several lab scale RP-1 formulations were obtained which met specification requirements but were blended from chemically unique feedstocks, thereby representing the expected compositional variation for currently produced fuel. Chemical composition was obtained in terms of hydrocarbon types and was compared between the various formulations. Several property measurements provided insight to compositional impacts on fuel behavior; reported in this paper are composition explicit distillation curve, density, viscosity, heat of combustion, and hydrogen content. While chemical variability for RP-1 was not as severe as that of jet fuel, the sensitivity of several properties to feedstock selection was demonstrated, even for fuels which met specification requirements.
Proceedings Title
Proc. American Insititue for Aeronautics and Astronautics
Conference Dates
July 25-28, 2010
Conference Location
Nashville, TN
Conference Title
46th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference


Kerosene, rocket propellant


Bruno, T. , Edwards, T. , Shafer, L. and Billingsley, M. (2010), Extent and Impacts of Hydrocarbon Fuel Compositional Variability for Aerospace Propulsion Systems, Proc. American Insititue for Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nashville, TN, [online], (Accessed July 22, 2024)


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Created July 25, 2010, Updated November 10, 2018