Encyclopedia Astronautica
Lox/Alcohol



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Redstone engine
Credit: © Mark Wade
Liquid oxygen was the earliest, cheapest, safest, and eventually the preferred oxidiser for large space launchers. Its main drawback is that it is moderately cryogenic, and therefore not suitable for military uses where storage of the fuelled missile and quick launch are required. Alcohol (C2H5OH) was the fuel used for the German V-2 rocket, and the first derivative rocket engines in the United States, Soviet Union, and China used it as well. Better performance was achieved by increasing the alcohol concentration in the post-war engines. But after better-performance rocket-grade kerosene was developed by Rocketdyne in the REAP program of 1953, use of alcohol was abandoned.

Liquid oxygen, as normally supplied, is of 99.5 percent purity and is covered in the United States by Military Specification MIL-P-25508. High purity liquid oxygen has a light blue colour and is transparent. It has no characteristic odour. Liquid oxygen does not burn, but will support combustion vigorously. The liquid is stable; however, mixtures of fuel and liquid oxygen are shock-sensitive. Gaseous oxygen can form mixtures with fuel vapours that can be exploded by static electricity, electric spark, or flame. Liquid oxygen is obtained from air by fractional distillation. The 1959 United. States production of high-purity oxygen was estimated at nearly 2 million tonnes. The cost of liquid oxygen, at that time, ex-works, was $ 0.04 per kg. By the 1980's NASA was paying $ 0.08 per kg.

Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, has wide commercial uses in both the chemical and the spirits industries and is produced commercially in large quantities. It is a clear, water-white, mobile liquid with the characteristic alcohol odour. It is an excellent solvent; special lubricants must be used. Materials of construction used for methanol are also used for ethanol. Like methanol, ethanol forms explosive mixtures with air or with oxidisers. Denaturants added to the alcohol can cause poisoning, blindness, and death. (Despite this, the Russians liked to call their early missiles 'drunk rockets'. Ethyl alcohol is produced by fermentation of sugars (glucose) or hydrolysed starches. The majority of the ethyl alcohol for solvent use is made by the hydrolysis of ethyl sulphate, which results from the addition of sulphuric acid to ethylene. Ethyl alcohol forms an azeotrope with water; this solution is 95.6 per cent ethyl alcohol. Absolute alcohol is made by azeotropic distillation with benzene. The estimated 1959 United States production was 1.6 million tonnes (50 per cent by volume). The price of absolute alcohol, tax-free, in tank-car quantities was $ 0.16 per kg. Density varies: 0.87 g/cc for 75% alcohol; 0.80 g/cc for 92.5% alcohol; to 0.79 g/cc for 96% alcohol.

Oxidizer: LOX. Oxidizer: LOX. Oxidizer: LOX. Fuel: Alcohol. Fuel: Alcohol. Fuel: Alcohol. Propellant Formulation: LOX/Alcohol-75%. Propellant Formulation: LOX/Alcohol-92.5%. Propellant Formulation: LOX/Alcohol-96%. Optimum Oxidizer to Fuel Ratio: 1.73. Optimum Oxidizer to Fuel Ratio: 1.43. Optimum Oxidizer to Fuel Ratio: 1.8. Temperature of Combustion: 3,390 deg K. Temperature of Combustion: 3,230 deg K. Temperature of Combustion: 3,420 deg K. Ratio of Specific Heats: 1.21. Density: 0.98 g/cc. Density: 0.99 g/cc. Density: 1.01 g/cc. Characteristic velocity c: 1,710 m/s (5,610 ft/sec). Isp Shifting: 288 sec. Isp Frozen: 276 sec. Mol: 24.10 M (79.00 ft). Oxidizer Density: 1.140 g/cc. Oxidizer Density: 1.140 g/cc. Oxidizer Density: 1.140 g/cc. Oxidizer Freezing Point: -219 deg C. Oxidizer Freezing Point: -219 deg C. Oxidizer Freezing Point: -219 deg C. Oxidizer Boiling Point: -183 deg C. Oxidizer Boiling Point: -183 deg C. Oxidizer Boiling Point: -183 deg C. Fuel Density: 0.870 g/cc. Fuel Density: 0.870 g/cc. Fuel Density: 0.870 g/cc. Fuel Freezing Point: -114 deg C. Fuel Freezing Point: -114 deg C. Fuel Freezing Point: -114 deg C. Fuel Boiling Point: 78 deg C. Fuel Boiling Point: 78 deg C. Fuel Boiling Point: 78 deg C.

Location: 1710.
Specific impulse: 338 s.
Specific impulse sea level: 284 s.

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Associated Spacecraft
  • XS-1 American manned rocketplane. Design begun 1943. Also known as the X-1. This rocket plane was the first aircraft to break the sound barrier, and the first in a line of X- aircraft leading to the space shuttle. More...
  • X-2 American manned rocketplane. Design began 1945. X-2 was an AAF/ Bell project that flew three supersonic flight research aircraft, powered by liquid rockets. Originally designated XS-2. More...
  • XP-92 American manned delta-wing rocketplane. Never flown with rockets, but flew as a turbojet-powered research aircraft, 1948-1953. More...
  • XF-91 American manned rocketplane. Study 1949. The Republic XF-91 Thunderceptor was a mixed-power interceptor, being powered by both a jet engine and by a battery of rocket motors. Although it showed promise, it was not put into production. More...
  • X-1D American manned rocketplane. Study 1953. The X-1A, B, and D were essentially identical rocketplanes intended to reach speeds above Mach 2. More...
  • X-1A American manned rocketplane. Study 1951. The X-1A, B, and D were essentially identical rocketplanes intended to reach speeds above Mach 2. More...
  • X-1B American manned rocketplane. Flown 1952. The X-1A, B, and D were essentially identical rocketplanes intended to reach speeds above Mach 2. More...
  • M2-F2 American manned spaceplane. Study 1966. The least stable of the lifting body designs. The 'flying bathtub' had a rounded belly / flat top layout as opposed to the flat belly / rounded top of the other designs. More...
  • M2-F3 American manned spaceplane. 43 launches, 1966.07.12 to 1971.12.21 . The crashed M2-F2 was rebuilt as the M2-F3 with enlarged vertical stabilizers. Maximum speed achieved was Mach 1.6, top altitude 21,800 m. More...
  • HL-10 American manned spaceplane. 37 launches, 1966.12.22 to 1970.07.17 . The HL-10 was the favored lifting body configuration of NASA Langley in the 1960's. It reached Mach 1.86 and 27,700 m during its flight tests. More...
  • X-24A American manned spaceplane. 28 launches, 1969.04.17 to 1971.06.04 . The X-24A was the Martin Corporation's subsonic test version of the US Air Force's preferred manned lifting body configuration. More...
  • X-24B American manned spaceplane. 36 launches, 1973.08.01 to 1975.11.26 . More...
  • Quad American manned lunar lander. Study 2009. Prototype lunar lander developed by Armadillo Aerospace with private funds. Quad was the only entry in the 2006 competition for the X-Prize Cup Lunar Lander challenge. More...

Associated Engines
  • A-10 Thiel Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 2306.8 kN. Study 1942. Planned for use in A-10. Unique dual-thrust chamber / single nozzle design, which was later shown to be not feasible technically. Isp=247s. More...
  • A-4 Thiel Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 311.8 kN. Isp=239s. Used on V-2 missile. Work began June 1936. Interim design, but went into production. Used 18 x 1.5 tonne thrust chambers, feeding common mixing chamber. Tested from 1939, mass production 1943-1945. More...
  • A-6 Rocketdyne Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 414.3 kN. Out of production. Isp=265s. Used on Redstone launch vehicle. First flight 1953. Developed from the XLR43-NA-1, an American version of the V-2 single-chamber engine tested in 1945. More...
  • A-9 Thiel Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 288.7 kN. Single chamber engine for V-2 series C, A9. Tested 1942-45. Isp=255s. Never went into production in Germany, but formed the basis for successful post-war American and French rocket engines. More...
  • DF-1 CALT Liquid oxygen/Alcohol rocket engine. 270 kN. More...
  • Garvey Aerospike Garvey Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. Development ended 2005. Launch thrust .044 kN. Single-chamber, liquid-propellant, annular aerospike engine. More...
  • LR39 Reaction Motors Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 0.225 kN. Small experimental engine. Single thrust chamber, water cooled, equipped only with spark plug igntion system and propellant flow valves. Test article only built. More...
  • LR8-RM-5 Reaction Motors Lox/Alcohol rocket engine for rocketplanes. Out of Production. Launch thrust 26.67 kN. Advanced version of the LR-11, 4 chambers. Engine in the X-1E was modified in 1958 to increase chamber pressure to 20 atm and burn Hydyne fuel. More...
  • RD-0101 Kosberg Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 39.2 kN. E-50A aircraft by Mikoyan. Out of Production. Chamber pressure 42,7 - 22,1 bar. Specific impulse 255 - 248,5 sec. Isp=255s. More...
  • RD-101 Glushko Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 404 kN. R-2 and V-2A. Isp=237s. Developed simultaneously with the RD-100 but with no German involvement. More compact, increased thrust, increased chamber pressure and higher alcohol concentration. First flight 1949. More...
  • RD-103RD Glushko Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. M5RD. Out of Production. More...
  • RD-103M Glushko Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 500.1 kN. R-5M 8K51. Isp=248s. First flight 1953. More...
  • RD-102 Glushko Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 428 kN. R-3A. Development ended 1951. Project for R-3A experimental missile. Stopped in favor of RD-103. Isp=235s. More...
  • RD-100 Glushko Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 304 kN. R-1, V-1A. Isp=237s. Russian copy of the V-2 engine using Russian materials - which made it very difficult! German rocket scientists assisted in its development. First flight 1948. More...
  • RD-103 Glushko Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 500 kN. R-5. Out of Production. Isp=243s. Final extrapolation of the V-2 rocket engine in Russia. First flight 1953. More...
  • RD-3A Glushko Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. R-3A. Out of Production. Project for R-3A experimental missile. Stopped in favour of RD-103. More...
  • Sanger-Bredt Sled Saenger Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 1144.1 kN. Study 1943. Isp=245s. Used on Sanger launch vehicle. More...
  • Sled Technology Rocketdyne Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 666 kN. Pressure-fed. From 35,000 to 150,000 lbf. Cook Sled, Air Force Sleds 1 and 2, RS-2 Sled, operated at Edwards and Holloman Air Force Bases. More...
  • XLR11 Reaction Motors, Thiokol Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. Out of Production. Launch thrust 26.67 kN. Rocket engine developed for X-1 in 1940s to break the sound barrier and used twenty years later to power experimental lifting bodies. Four combustion chambers. More...
  • XLR25-CW-1 Curtiss-Wright Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 66.880 kN. Out of Production. First flight 1954. Two chamber engine built for X-2 rocketplane. Engine could be throttled continuously from 1140 kgf to 6820 kgf. More...
  • XLR43-NA-1 Rocketdyne Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 333 kN. Development completed 1951. Mark III American version of single-chamber V-2 engine tested in WW2, but with half mass and 34% more thrust. Starting point for all later Rocketdyne engines. More...
  • XLR71-NA-1 Rocketdyne Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. Development cancelled 1955. Launch thrust 533.7 kN. Planned engine for the booster of the Navaho II test vehicle. Gas generator, pump-fed. More...
  • XR3A2 XCOR Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 0.700 kN. First stages. Hardware. The XR3A2 700-newton engine was the first XCOR LOX/alcohol engine, accumulating 61 brief runs in the course of injector concept development, which led to later engines. More...
  • XR4A3 XCOR Lox/Alcohol rocket engine. 1.780 kN. First stages. Fully operational pressure-fed, regeneratively cooled engine. Flown on the EZ-Rocket, a modified Long-EZ aircraft fitted with two engines. First flight 2001. More...

Associated Stages
  • A-10 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 69,043/16,993 kg. Thrust 2,306.90 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 247 seconds. More...
  • A-11 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 500,000/75,000 kg. Thrust 13,841.38 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 247 seconds. Masses estimated; dimensions scaled from drawing. More...
  • A-12 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 3,500,000/350,000 kg. Thrust 98,000.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 247 seconds. All values estimated. More...
  • A-4 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 12,805/4,008 kg. Thrust 311.80 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 239 seconds. V-2 production version. More...
  • A-9 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 16,259/3,000 kg. Thrust 288.68 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 255 seconds. Winged version. More...
  • DF-1-1 Lox/Alcohol rocket stage. 270.00 kN (60,698 lbf) thrust. Mass 14,000 kg (30,865 lb). More...
  • G-26 Booster Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 42,403/11,337 kg. Thrust 1,204.12 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 273 seconds. Burns out at altitude 13,000 m, Mach 3 More...
  • G-4 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 66,600/2,760 kg. Thrust 1,059.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 249 seconds. Residuals 940 kg. Burnout mass with 3400 kg warhead 7100 kg. Cutoff velocity 4500 m/s, maximum altitude 120 km over 3000 km range. With 10 G limiter thrust would be throttled back and burn time would be 156 seconds. More...
  • MX-774 Lox/Alcohol rocket stage. 35.00 kN (7,868 lbf) thrust. Mass 1,100 kg (2,425 lb). More...
  • R-1 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 12,630/4,066 kg. Thrust 307.09 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 233 seconds. Payload 815 / 483 kg. Range 270 km. Maximum altitude 77 km. Time of flight 5 minutes. Max velocity at burnout 1465 m/s. Accuracy 8 km in range, 4 km laterally. More...
  • R-2 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 19,632/4,592 kg. Thrust 404.11 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 237 seconds. Payload 1350 / 508 kg. Range 550 km. Maximum altitude 171 km. Time of flight 7.5 minutes. Max velocity at burnout 2175 m/s. Accuracy 8 km in range, 4 km laterally. More...
  • R-3A Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 19,900/3,500 kg. Thrust 434.40 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 235 seconds. Further incremental upgrade of R-2. Payload 500 kg. Range 935 km. Developed from 1949 to October 1951. Cancelled, work combined with 8K14 development. More...
  • R-5 Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 27,250/3,250 kg. Thrust 479.22 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 244 seconds. More...
  • Redstone Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 28,440/3,125 kg. Thrust 414.34 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 265 seconds. More...
  • Redstone Mercury Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 28,440/3,125 kg. Thrust 414.34 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 265 seconds. Used for Jupiter-C satellite missions, and greatly modified, for Mercury manned positions. For Jupiter-C missions, used Hydyne fuel, which was toxic but increased specific impulse. More...
  • Sanger Sled Lox/Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 34,000/6,800 kg. Thrust 6,860.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 245 seconds. More...
  • Viking-1 Lox/Alcohol rocket stage. 93.00 kN (20,907 lbf) thrust. Mass 4,500 kg (9,921 lb). More...

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