Science and Technology of Energetic Materials

Vol.73, No.5 (2012)

Research paper

Thermite as a chemical heat source for the science payload
Hiroto Habu, Minoru Okada, Masanori Ito, Katsuhiko Nozoe, Tatsuya Kawano, Shinji Matsumoto and Yuji Yoshida


The neutral wind in ionosphere region has been the target on the earth environmental research. Chemical tracer releases represent the most widely used technique for in situ neutral wind measurements. The wind velocity is measured optically from the ground and lithium vapor is generally employed as the tracer. The science payload for the research is required that lithium is converted from a solid phase into vapor which is injected into the space throughout the sounding rocket experiment. The payload therefore should be loaded with thermite as the heat source for vaporizing lithium. Thermite is known as a powder mixture of a metal and a metal oxide without binder that undergoes the redox reaction with high heat energy release. That is why thermite is selected as the chemical heat source for the payload. The rocketborne Lithium Ejection System (LES) is a chemical release device that has been developed for the Japanese space research program.
The ignition and combustion characteristics of thermite were studied to develop the device. Thermite usually consists of iron oxide and aluminum and burns comparable to explosives. Therefore the combustion properties for the device should be improved. This paper will discuss the composition and the reaction properties of thermite. Finally, the design of the device was confirmed by the full scale ground test.


thermite, condesed phase reaction, redox reaction

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