Nitrous oxide in rocket motors

Nitrous oxide is used in large scale rocketry and also on the home-made scale with the use of nitrous oxide cream chargers in small rockets Рeg here in what are known as hybrid rockets.

An oxidizer is a substance that can be used to combine other substances with oxygen. When it comes to rocket fuel, rapid combustion needs to take place in large amounts in order to propel the rocket forward. One of the gases that is used on a very large basis as an oxidizer is nitrous oxide. The history of nitrous oxide as an oxidizer in rocket motors goes around a century back, when Robert Goddard, a top level rocket scientist mentioned the prospect of nitrous oxide as an oxidizer for rockets that ran on fuel. In 1914, he stated this information when he filed a patent for it. Primarily, hybrid rockets make use of nitrous oxide.

There are several advantages due to which nitrous oxide has been adopted as an oxidizer in rocket motors. Firstly, when nitrous oxide is placed at room temperature, it resides in a completely non- toxic state, and is very stable. Therefore, in rocket flights, the gas can be carried out easily without any harm of safety measures being taken. Moreover, during rocket flights, breathing air holds a lot of importance, and a secondary advantage that nitrous oxide has over other gases is that the gas can be broken down in to its constituent elements in order to form breathable air.  However, even though nitrous oxide is very safe when the process of combustion is not taking place, a lot of care and fine tuning is required during the process of combustion, because in case larger amounts of gas are injected, the whole process could cause an explosion.

Because the gas has a very high density and has very little pressure during storage, it is used in several top of the line gas systems as well. In a range of different hybrid rockets, the primary oxidizer has been nitrous oxide. A hybrid rocket is a rocket which makes use of a liquid fuel and a solid fuel, and with the help of an oxidizer, is able to burn off energy. With the help of several different plastics, nitrous oxide has now become quite popular as an oxidizer in different kinds of rockets, ranging from rookie designs to professional large scale rockets.

Over the years, propellant rockets have evolved rapidly, and nitrous oxide has been used as an oxidizer with a heated catalyst in the vicinity too. Because of the significantly decreased levels of toxicity that the gas exudes, nitrous oxide has become a major option worth exploring in bi-propellant rockets as well. The use of nitrous oxide in rocket motors is also being explored further, as various top level companies such as Space Ships One and others have adopted this gas as the primary oxidizer in their rockets.

Moreover, a nitrous oxide fuel blend has a very low freezing point, and it becomes an important property because space fuel is usually stored at very low temperatures. It becomes a nitrous oxide fuel blend when it is mixed with a hydrocarbon fuel and stored together.