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Bipropellant rocket

From Academic Kids

F-1 rocket engine (The kind used by the Saturn V.)
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F-1 rocket engine (The kind used by the Saturn V.)

A bipropellant rocket is a rocket that uses separate fuel and oxidizer propellants. Bipropellant systems are more efficient than monopropellant systems, but they tend to be more complicated because of the extra hardware components needed to make sure the right amount of fuel gets mixed with the right amount of oxidizer (this is known as the mixture ratio.)

Thousands of combinations of fuels and oxidizers have been tried over the years. Some of the more common and practical ones are:

Robert Goddard and his rocket
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Robert Goddard and his rocket

The best mixture oxygen and hydrogen suffers from the deep temperature (20 K (−253 C)) which is needed to store the fuel. Also the low density (70 kg/m3), which makes the need for large and heavy tanks, is a disadvantage. The use of lightweight foam, to insulate the cryogenic tank, proved to be dangerous as seen in the Columbia (STS-107) accident. For storable ICBMs or interplanetary spacecraft, the cooling is an unsolvable problem. Because of this the mixtures of hydrazine and its derivatives in combination with nitrogenoxides are used for these rockets.

Small scale rocket engines

XCOR Aerospace (http://www.xcor.com), a California based company, is developing small scale rocket engines to power small airplanes for suborbital flights. They have tested various combination of propellants including nitrous oxide/propane, nitrous oxide/alcohol, LOX/alcohol, LOX/kerosene with success.

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