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Thermal decomposition kinetics of RP-1 rocket propellant



Peter C. Andersen, Thomas J. Bruno


As part of a thermophysical and transport property measurement project, the global decomposition kinetics of the kerosene based rocket propellant, RP-1, was investigated. We measured the decomposition of RP-1 at elevated temperatures (that is, under thermal stress) as a function of time, and then derived a global pseudo-first-order rate constant that describes the overall mixture decomposition. While not as rigorous as a component by component kinetic analysis, this approach is nevertheless instructive and can be used to guide the aforementioned property measurements. Decomposition measurements were made at 375, 400, 425 and 500 ¿C for two separate samples of RP-1. One sample was a typical batch, showing the expected fractions of paraffins, cycloparaffins, olefins and aromatics. The other was an off-specification batch that had an unusually high olefin and aromatic content. While the primary purpose of this work was to establish operating ranges for the property measurements, the results clearly have implications in other facets of RP-1 application. These applications include establishing operating ranges for supercritical fluid heat sink regimes, setting residence times in motors, etc. In addition to the decomposition kinetics, we have also done a chemical analysis of the vapor phase that is produced upon thermal stress. This was done with a new gas-Iiquid separator.
Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research


kinetics, rocket propellant, RP-1, thermal decomposition, thermal stress


Andersen, P. and Bruno, T. (2005), Thermal decomposition kinetics of RP-1 rocket propellant, Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, [online], (Accessed June 23, 2024)


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Created March 16, 2005, Updated February 19, 2017