Propellant Systems

Propellant Systems

Explosion from Hydrogen/Oxygen Vertical Impact Test<br/>WSTF07096-1947Explosion from Hydrogen/Oxygen Vertical Impact Test

White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) has a wide variety of resources to draw upon in assessing the fire, explosion, compatibility, and safety hazards of hydrogen, oxygen, the hydrazine fuels, and nitrogen tetroxide. The skills and techniques developed to assess these propellants are also being utilized to analyze other propellants of current interest such as methane.

WSTF has the infrastructure, experience, and environmental permits to handle, store, test, and dispose of shuttle and ISS propellants, such as:

  • Gaseous and cryogenic hydrogen
  • Gaseous and cryogenic oxygen
  • Hydrazine
  • Monomethylhydrazine (MMH)
  • Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH)
  • Aerozine 50
  • Nitrogen tetroxide and variants such as MON3

WSTF also uses its resources to evaluate other propellants and hazardous fluids to support NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial efforts.

  • Recent interest with non-toxic, or reduced toxicity, propellants has led to renewed interest and testing with methane.
  • Research by the U.S. Army into possible replacements for MMH have led to hazards testing at WSTF with tertiary amine azides.


WSTF has a wide range of analytical capabilities to support the assessment of propellants and hazardous fluids. Many of these capabilities reside in the Analytical Services Laboratories. The following are the types of analyses that WSTF can perform:


  • Thermal
  • Spectroscopic
  • Specification
  • Environmental
  • Composition


  • Blast wave
  • Blast source characterization reaction
  • Kinetics
  • Thermodynamics


  • Hazards
  • Failure


WSTF has been conducting tests on propulsion systems, components, materials, propellants, and hazardous fluids since the 1960s. WSTF offers a wide range of test capabilities, facilities, hazardous test sites, and support services (including environmental permits) to allow for the testing and disposal of certain toxic materials.

Listed below are some of the test capabilities that are maintained at WSTF and that support the assessment of propellants and hazardous fluids:

  • Accelerated rate calorimetry
  • Adiabatic compression
  • Blast effects
  • Compatibility (metallic and nonmetallic materials)
  • Corrosion (liquid and vapor phase)
  • Detonability (liquid and vapor phase)
  • Electrochemistry
  • Flammability
  • Frictional heating
  • Kindling chain ignitions
  • Mechanical impact
  • Minimum ignition energy
  • Particle impact
  • Physical properties
  • Promoted ignition/combustion
  • Shock sensitivity
  • Slow strain rate
  • Thermal runaway
  • Ultrasonic decomposition
Page Last Updated: March 17th, 2014
Page Editor: Judy Corbett