Bright or invisible rocket exhaust


in Bombs and rockets, Geek stuff, Science

LOX and RP-1 never burn absolutely clean, and there is always a bit of free carbon in the exhaust, which produces a luminous flame. So when you’re looking at TV and see a liftoff from Cape Kennedy—or from Baikonur for that matter—and the exhaust flame is very bright, you can be sure the propellants are Lox and RP-1 or the equivalent. If the flame is nearly invisible, and you can see the shock diamonds in the exhaust, you’re probably watching a Titan II booster burning N2O4 and 50–50.

Clark, John D. Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants. Rutgers University Press Classics, 2017. p. 96

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