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Hypergolic Fuels

The Chemistry of a Rocket Launch

Chemist Andrea Sella combines dimethylhydrazine with dinotrogen tetroxide to show how hypergolic mixtures fire rockets into space.

There are a few ways to use chemistry to power a rocket, but all involved an oxider and a fuel. And with no oxygen in space, what’s the best solution? Professor Andrea Sella from University College London discusses the solid state boosters of the space shuttle, the cryogenic liquid approach used in the 1970s, and demonstrates to dramatic effect the power that hypergolic reactions can provide.

Hypergolic mixtures spontaneously ignite, remove the need for a spark in space, and give a huge relative reaction. Andrea combines nitrogen dioxide and dimethylhydrazine to demonstrate how just a tiny amount of these substances can pack a powerful punch.

Topics:
  • hypergolic fuels
  • dimethylhydrazine
  • dinitrogen tetroxide
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