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Copyright 1997, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.

ASSESSMENT OF HTPB AND PBAN PROPELLANT USAGE IN THE UNITED STATES


Thomas L. Moore*
The Johns Hopkins University
Chemical Propulsion Information Agency (CPIA)
Columbia, Maryland
ABSTRACT
This paper discusses composite solid
propellants based upon the butadiene prepolymers
which make up the vast majority of current
production in the United Stateshydroxyl-
terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), and the
terpolymer of butadiene, acrylic acid, and
acrylonitrile (PBAN). The objective of this study is
to present a brief historical review of the
development of HTPB and PBAN propellants,
compare their characteristics, describe their
applications, and present a statistical analysis of
their production and usage for military, launch, and
space motors manufactured in the United States.
Using CPIA in-house and external resources, a
tabulation of all known major systems utilizing
HTPB and PBAN propellant was completed.
PBAN production over the next ten years will be
sustained nearly entirely by the production of the
Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor
(RSRM), while HTPB production will be limited
primarily to tactical and space motors after
completion of deliveries of the Titan IV Solid
Rocket Motor Upgrade (SRMU) in 1999.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Composite solid propellants using a
hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) or
polybutadiene-acrylic acid-acrylonitrile (PBAN)
binder system have been the choice for most solid
rocket motor systems developed and fielded in the
United States over the past twenty years.
Propellant based upon these binders account for
over 800 million pounds (360* 10
6
kg) of domestic
production through the end of 1996. Comparative
characteristics for typical aluminized formulations
of these two types of propellant are presented in
Table I.
ilTailillil^^
lllllllll^
I
ps
, lbf-sec/lbm(kN.s/kg)
Flame temp., F (K)
Solids loading
Aluminum content
Cross linking agent
Operating temperatures,
F(K)
Hazard Classification
PBAN
262 (2.569)
5600(3370)
84 - 86%
16-17%
epoxides
or aziridines
40to 90
(278 to 305)
1.3
HTPB
264 (2.589)
5950(3560)
88 - 90%
18-20%
diisocyanates
-50to 150
(228 to 339)
1.3
PBAN
The terpolymer PBAN was developed in
1957 as an outgrowth of polybutadiene-acrylic acid
(PBAA), the first hydrocarbon binder to be used in
a rocket motor. The rather poor tear strength of
PBAA propellants was solved by adding a small
amount (-10%) of acrylonitrile as a third monomer
to the PBAA copolymer, thus becoming known as
polybutadiene-acrylic acid-acrylonitrile. The
advent of higher hydrogen content liquid
polybutadiene polymers offered a means to
substantially lower the average molecular weight of
motor combustion products while increasing flame
temperature and enhancing the combustion of
aluminized composite formulations. The resulting
significant increase in specific impulse (over
former polysulfide formulations) made the
polybutadiene propellant system an attractive
candidate for the launch stage of the Minuteman
Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
1
.
*Sr. Research Engineer, Sr. Member AIAA
This paper is declared a work of the U.S. Government and Is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. Approved for
public release; distribution is unlimited. Work performed under contracts N00014-91-C-0001 and DSO700-97-D-4004 with the
Defense Supply Center Columbus. CPIA is a DoD Information Analysis Center sponsored by the Defense Technical Information
Center.
1
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
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Copyright 1997, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.
Meanwhile, the United Technology Center
(later Chemical Systems Division), formed in 1959,
was engaged in company funded research to
develop PBAN propellents for large solid motors.
This research resulted in the successful test firings
of the 87-inch (2.21 m) diameter P-1 solid motor in
1960, which produced 200,000 Ibf (890 kN) of
thrust, and the 500,000-lbf (2224 kN) P-2 in late
1961
2
. Soon the development of even larger
motors containing PBAN propellant would begin in
earnest.
In 1962, Air Force funding was released to
advance the state-of-the-art of large solid motors
for potential application to DoD and NASA
missions. Aerojet, United Technologies' Chemical
Systems Division (UT-CSD), Thiokol, and the
former Lockheed Propulsion Company (LPC) were
all involved. LPC and Thiokol tested a number of
156-inch (3.96 m) diameter motors while Aerojet
successfully tested the largest solid motors ever
builtthree 260-inch (6.60 m) motors containing
nearly 1.7 million pounds (770000 kg) of PBAN
propellant each. Although the 156-in and 260-in
designs never became operational, their
technology contributed to the future development
of other large launch boosters
2
.
Concurrent with the development of
general large motor technology in the early 1960's
was the development of the Titan III launch vehicle
which incorporated two 120-inch (3.05 m) diameter
booster SRMs containing PBAN propellant
2
.
UTC/CSD developed and produced the 5-segment
Titan III SRMs, from which the subsequent 5
1
/i-
segment Titan 34D and 7-segment Titan IV solid
rocket boosters were derived.
With the greatest amount of history behind
them, PBANs have long been a major staple of
production for companies such as Thiokol and UT-
CSD. The extensive experience base and solid
background of characterization and aging data was
no doubt a factor in selecting PBAN as the
propellant for the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket
Motor in 1974. With a propellant mass of more
than 1.1 million pounds (500000 kg), the current
four-segment booster, known as the Reusable
Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM), is the largest solid
propellant rocket motor ever flown. The RSRM
propellant, designated TP-H1148, is itself a minor
modification of the first PBAN to be used in a
major weapon systemTP-H1011 used in the
Minuteman II first stage.
HTPB
Although Aerojet reportedly investigated
and demonstrated the application of HTPB
propellant in small motors as early as 1961, PBAN
and carboxyl-terminated polybutadiene (CTPB)
remained the preferred formulations for solid
composite rockets until the mid-1970's
3
. With the
desire for increased propellant performance,
HTPBs were viewed as serious contenders for
future solid rocket motors by the early 1970's.
Several companies and government propulsion
laboratories were active in the development of
higher performance propellants at that time.
HTPB propellant was used and test flown
in a rocket motor as early as 1970. This came
about as the result of a NASA-sponsored 1968
study which sought to apply advanced propulsion
techniques to small rocket vehicles. Aerojet
developed a dual-thrust radial-burning HTPB grain
design for the Astrobee D meterological sounding
rocket vehicle. The HTPB propellant was selected
based upon its favorable mechanical properties,
high impulse, and burn rate control which could
provide a high initial thrust and an extended
sustained burning time approaching that of end
burning grains. Following eight successful static
tests, two Astrobee D vehicles were successfully
launched from White Sands Missile Range to an
altitude of 320,000 feet (97.5 km) on 8 June 1970
4
.
The Astrobee D subsquently went into
production. Based on the initial success of this
and other motor demonstrations, other programs
began to incorporate HTPB propellants such that
these formulations have become the foundation for
nearly all weapon system rocket propulsion
developed since the late 1970's.
The use of HTPB propellants has largely
been limited to tactical, air-launch, and upper stage
space motors. Even though demonstrated in full-
scale motor tests in the early 1970's, the transition
of HTPB's into fielded systems was gradual. By
the late 1970's and early 1980's, systems such as
Maverick, Stinger, Sidewinder, and Castor IV
upgraded from older composite propellants to
more desirable HTPB formulations. In 1989,
Aerojet began the development of the Space
Shuttle Advanced Solid Rocket Motor (ASRM)
containing an 88% solids HTPB propellant.
Designed to improve upon the performance of the
RSRM and increase Shuttle payload capacity, the
ASRM program eventually fell victim to
government budget scrutiny and was canceled in
October 1993.
At about the same time, however,
Hercules Aerospace Company (now Alliant
Techsystems) was under contract to develop the
Solid Rocket Motor Upgrade (SRMU) for the Air
Force's Titan IV launch vehicle. Work on the
development of the SRMU had begun in October
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Copyright 1997, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.
1987. The SRMU, with graphite composite case
and HTPB propellant, improves upon the
performance of the CSD-manufactured Titan IV
SRM containing PBAN propellant. Qualification of
the new booster was accomplished in 1993, and
the SRMU debuted on the successful initial flight of
the Titan IVB on February 23,1997 from Cape
Canveral. The SRMU design represents the
highest performance large solid propellant space
booster developed and qualified to date
2
.
Production of the 15 flight sets (30 motors) ordered
by the Air Force is expected to conclude in 1999.
STATISTICAL USAGE
Through the use of both CPIA in-house
and external resources, a tabulation of all known
major systems utilizing HTPB and PBAN
propellants was completed. A number of
publications
5
'
6
'
7
'
8
were valuable in this effort and,
where possible, production statistics were verified
to the extent possible with manufacturers.
Table II presents a tabulation of PBAN
propellant use by selected major systems. The
propellant mass per motor and known motor
production quantities have been deleted for
weapon systems. In some cases, the reported
quantity of motors listed in the table may exceed
that which is generally known to be under contract
in order to account for additional cast grains or
motors lost or rejected for one reason or another.
Based upon a 1993 Phillips Laboratory
survey of U.S. propellant manufacturers
9
, it was
determined that for all propellant cast into full-scale
end item test motors and deliverables, an
additional 14.1% of material is created as a result
of testing or scrap. This was factored in the final
estimated total production. At more than 550
million pounds (250x10
6
kg), the production of
PBAN propellant has far exceeded any other
single type.
Figure 1 presents a breakdown of
propellant usage by system. As expected, the
solid rocket boosters for the Space Shuttle account
for about half of the total PBAN propellant
manufactured to date. The boosters manufactured
by UT-CSD for the Titan family of launch vehicles
represent 23% of the total propellant produced,
followed by the Thiokol M55 Minuteman first stage
at 21%.
The tabulation of HTPB propellant usage
is presented in Table III and its distribution by
system in Figure 2. It is interesting to note that
one Army system alone, the Multiple Launch
Rocket System (MLRS)at over 500,000 units
Table II. PBAN PROPELLANT USE THRU DEC 1996
SYSTEM / MOTOR
156-inDia(Thiokol|
56-in dia motors
156-6 (in)
260-in SL-1
260-in SL-2
260-in SL-3
Algol IIIA, Scout FS
BSD 120-in
FW-4
FW-5
HGV
Minuteman 11 FS M55
P-1
P-1-2
Poseidon C3 FS
Space Shuttle FWC demo
Space Shuttle RSRM
Space Shuttle SRM
Titan 34D 5-1/2 seg
Titan IIICID Staging Mtr
Titan IIIIIIIC
Titan III (MOD 7-seg UT-
Titan IV SRM
Titan Retro SR55-UT-1
Other dev, demo motors
PROP.
MASS, Ib
800,000
various
272,880
1,676,350
1,673,000
1,645,584
27,986
166,000
605
577
212,000
65,000
121,716
1,107,000
1,106,280
1,110,136
464,436
54
425,150
592,695
593,138
55
QTY.
MF'D
1
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1
1
1
1
47
1
90
27
1
1
1
3
145
TOTAL L8
PRODUCED
800,000
4,359,000
272,880
1,676,350
1,673,000
1,645,584
1,315,342
166,000
54,450
15,579
212,000
105,017,031
65,000
121,716
23,287,800
3,321,000
160,410,600
68l 75,489,248
41j 19,041,876
I.OOSi 54,432
148J 62,922,200
4
48
835
2,370,780
| 28,470,624
45,92
176,34
TOTAL PBAN PROPELLANT IN END ITEMS
Est Additional Propellant Tested
Est Additional Scrap Propellant
0.06E
0.07:
PBAN PROPELLANT MANUFACTURED
PROD
DATES
964
964-68
966
965
966
967
1966
1965-74
1972-76
1967
1961-73
1961
1961
1970-76
1983-85
1987-
1979-85J
1979-89
1964-79 :
1962-79
1966-69
1987-96
1963-?
492,984,757 Ib
34,015,948 Ib
. 35,494,903 Ib
562,495,608 Ib
(48.5%)
(22.9%)
H Shuttle Boosters
I Titan Boosters
i Z2 Minuteman II
| n Poseidon C3
1 "All Others
(21.3%)
Figure 1. PBAN Propellant Usage Distribution
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
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Copyright 1997, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.
Table III. HTPB PROPELLANT USE THRU DEC 1996
TOTAL LB
PRODUCED
Maverick RS (Aerojet)
Maverick RS (Thiokol)
Sidewinder Mk 36 RS
Std Missile II Mk 104
Std Missile II Mk 72
Stinger Alt Flight Motor
Other dev, demo motors
TOTAL HTPB PROPELLANT IN END ITEMS
Est Additional Propellent Tested
Est Additional Scrap Propellant
TOTAL HTPB PROPELLANT MANUFACTURED
producedaccounts for nearly 60% of the total
HTPB propellant produced through 1996. Atlantic
Research Corporation continues to manufacture
the propulsion unit for MLRS, and recently began
production of an extended range version
designated ER-MLRS. Other significant
contributors to the HTPB production base have
included Peacekeeper, Delta GEM, Standard
Missile, and Titan IV SRMU.
(59.2%)
(7.7%)
(77%) (5.2%)'
,(4.5%)
Figure 2. HTPB Propellant Usage Distribution
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Since the development of PBAN in the late
1950's, more composite propellant has been
produced from this terpolymer than from any other
single prepolymer
10
. This is due in large part to
the production associated with the Minuteman II
first stage and the Titan and Space Shuttle solid
rocket boosters. The 1960's are known as the era
of large solid rocket motor development. It was in
the mid-1960's that the largest solid propellant
motors ever tested were built.
Substantial production of PBAN will
continue over the next 10 years, although this will
be largely limited to procurement of the Reusable
Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) for the Space Shuttle.
NASA's next intended procurement of 120 motors
will provide a steady annual production of over 12
million pounds (5.4x1 o
6
kg) of PBAN propellant for
the next ten years.
Although Titan IV boosters containing
PBAN propellant remain on the launch manifest for
the near future, production has been completed as
the Titan completes its evolution to the IVB
configuration launcher which will use the HTPB-
based SRMU for its launches through 2005.
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Copyright 1997, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.
HTPB propellants have primarily been
utilized for tactical and air-launched systems
requiring a wide operational temperature range.
But the higher energy HTPB propellant has come
into its own as a viable option for large launch
boosters with the development, qualification, and
successful 1997 maiden flight of the Titan IVB
vehicle featuring the SRMU.
However, HTPB's use in large launch
motors for the near future will likely be limited to
the SRMU which, under current plans, will
conclude production in 1999. As illustrated in
Figure 3, the future production base of HTPB is not
as stable as PBAN. From peak rates of over 20
million pounds per year in the late 1980's (primarily
due to MLRS), annual HTPB propellant production
will normalize to an average 4.5 million pounds
(2.0x10
6
kg) from the years 2000 through 2005
based on current system procurement plans.
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Year
Figure 3. HTPB Propellant Production Forecast
As current design concepts for the Air
Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle
(EELV) lack a solid rocket booster system, the
application of HTPB propellants for the forseeable
future will rest primarily with small and medium
launch vehicle boosters and weapon system
propulsion. Substantial production is still forseen
for weapon systems such ER-MLRS, Standard
Missile, AMRAAM, PAC-3, and AIM-9X
Sidewinder. Solid propellant launch boosters such
as the Delta GEM, Castor IVA/IVB, and Castor
120 will continue, however, to contribute to the
HTPB propellant production base.
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1
Sutton, E. S., Morton Thiokol Inc., From
Polysulfides to CTPB Binders-A Major Transition
in Solid Propellant Binder Chemistry, AIAA-84-
1236, 20th AIAA/SAE/ASME Joint Propulsion
Conference, 11-13 June 1984, Cincinnati, OH.
2
Andrepont, W. C., Chemical Systems Division,
United Technologies, and Felix, R. M., Sparta Inc.,
The History of Large Solid Rocket Motor
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30th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion
Conference, 27-29 June 1994, Indianapolis, IN.
3
Klager, K., Aerojet Strategic Propulsion Company,
Polyurethanes, the Most Versatile Binder for Solid
Composite Propellants, AIAA-84-1239, 20th
AIAA/SAE/ASME Joint Propulsion Conference, 11-
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4
Jenkins, R. B. and Taylor, J. P., Space General
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5
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6
Zaloga, S. J., World Missiles Briefing, The TEAL
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7
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8
Aerospace Industries Association, Washington,
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Robinson, K. P., Aerojet, Environmental Issues
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Mastrolia, E. J. and Klager, K., Solid Propellants
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