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Hydrogen peroxide is used as both an oxidizer and a monopropellant. Relatively high density and non-toxic, it was abandoned after early use in British rockets, but revived as a propellant for the Black Horse spaceplane in the 1990's and USAF spaceplane concepts in the 21st Century.

Specific impulse: 117 s. Specific impulse sea level: 117 s.

Hydrogen peroxide was used as a monopropellant in Mercury, the first American manned spacecraft. Passed over a silver catalyst bed, it disassociated into steam, which was ejected through the capsule's attitude control thrusters. Relatively high density and non-toxic, it had a specific impulse only half that of hydrazine when used as a monopropellant, and was not used in later spacecraft.

Hydrogen peroxide solutions are clear, astringent, colorless liquids which are slightly more viscous than water. They are described by Military Specification MIL-H-16005. High-strength hydrogen peroxide solutions are very reactive oxidizing agents. Hydrogen peroxide is miscible in all proportions in water; it is soluble in a large number of organic liquids which are also soluble in water. However, many of these mixtures form explosive mixtures. Hydrogen peroxide-water solutions are normally insensitive to detonation by shock or impact. Surfaces that come in contact with hydrogen peroxide must be specially treated (passivated) before use, to prevent the decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide-water solutions and their vapors are considered non-toxic, but are characterized by their ability to produce local irritation.

Hydrogen peroxide is manufactured commercially by several processes. Inorganic processes employ the electrolysis of an aqueous solution of sulfuric acid or acidic ammonium bisulfate, followed by hydrolysis of the peroxydisulfate which is formed. For reasons of economy and flexibility of plant location, organic processing methods have become important in the production of hydrogen peroxide. These include (1) the autoxidation of hydroquinone or one of its homologues in a suitable solvent system and (2) the partial gas-phase oxidation of hydrocarbons.

Dilute aqueous hydrogen peroxide is concentrated to about 90 per cent by conventional distillation. Higher-strength solutions are prepared by fractional crystallization of 90 per cent feed stock. Estimated United States production for 1959 was 50,000 metric tons based upon 100 per cent hydrogen peroxide. In large quantities, 95 per cent hydrogen peroxide then cost approximately $1.00 per kg. In small drum lots, 98 per cent solutions cost $ 2.00 per kg. Density varies: 1.44 g/cc for 100% H2O2, 1.43 for 98%, 1.42 for 96%, 1.33 for 75%.

Fuel Freezing Point: -1 deg C. Fuel Boiling Point: 150 deg C. Other properties as a monopropellant vary according to concentration of peroxide in water:

  • Propellant Formulation: H2O2-100% monopropellant. Temperature of Combustion: 1,285 deg K.Density: 1.45 g/cc. Characteristic velocity c: 1,045 m/s (3,425 ft/sec). Isp Shifting: 162 sec.
  • Propellant Formulation: H2O2-98% monopropellant. Temperature of Combustion: 1,225 deg K.Density: 1.43 g/cc. Characteristic velocity c: 1,020 m/s (3,340 ft/sec).
  • Propellant Formulation: H2O2-95% monopropellant. Temperature of Combustion: 1,165 deg K.Density: 1.42 g/cc. Characteristic velocity c: 1,000 m/s (3,279 ft/sec).
  • Propellant Formulation: H2O2-90% monopropellant. Temperature of Combustion: 1,015 deg K.Density: 1.40 g/cc. Characteristic velocity c: 930 m/s (3,055 ft/sec).
  • Propellant Formulation: H2O2-75% monopropellant. Temperature of Combustion: 630 deg K. Density: 1.33 g/cc. Characteristic velocity c: 740 m/s (2,433 ft/sec).

Spacecraft: Soyuz A SA, Asset, LEK SA, Soyuz 7K-MF6 SA, Progress OKD, Soyuz T SA, Progress M OKD, Stabilo. More at: 8076.

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