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High test peroxide or HTP is a high (85 to 98 percent) concentration solution of hydrogen peroxide, with the remainder predominantly made up of water. In contact with a catalyst it decomposes into a high temperature mixture of steam and oxygen, with no remaining liquid water. It was used as a propellant of HTP rockets and torpedoes, and has been used for high performance attitude jets.



When used with a suitable catalyst, HTP can be used as a monopropellant, or with a separate fuel as a bipropellant.

HTP has been used safely and successfully in many applications beginning with German usage during World War II and continues to the present day. During World War II, high test peroxide was used as an oxidizer in some German bipropellant rocket designs, e.g., Messerschmitt Me 163, where it was called T-Stoff.

Some significant United States programs include the reaction control thrusters on the X-15 program, and the Bell Rocket Belt. The NASA Lunar Lander Research Vehicle used it for rocket thrust to simulate a lunar lander.

The Royal Navy experimented with HTP as the oxidiser in the experimental high-speed target/training submarines HMS Explorer and HMS Excalibur between 1958 and 1969.

The first Russian HTP torpedo was known by the strictly functional name of 53-57, the 53 referring to the diameter in centimetres of the torpedo tube, the 57 to the year it was introduced. Driven by the Cold War competition, they ordered the development of a larger HTP torpedo, to be fired from the 65 cm tubes.

British experiments with HTP as a torpedo fuel were discontinued after a peroxide fire resulted in the loss of the submarine HMS Sidon (P259) in 1956.

British experimentation with HTP continued in rocketry research, ending with the Black Arrow launch vehicles in 1971. Black Arrow rockets successfully launched the Prospero X-3 satellite from Woomera, South Australia using HTP and kerosene fuel.

An accident involving an HTP torpedo was believed to be the cause of the Russian submarine Kursk explosion.

With concentration of 82%, it is still in use on the Russian Soyuz rocket to drive the turbopumps on the boosters and on the orbital vehicle.

HTP is be used in an attempt to break the land speed record with the Bloodhound SSC car aiming to reach over 1000 mph.

Hydrogen peroxide works best as a propellant in extremely high concentrations - roughly over 70%. Although any concentration of peroxide will generate some hot gas (oxygen plus some steam), at concentrations above approximately 67%, the heat of decomposing hydrogen peroxide becomes large enough to completely vaporize all the liquid at standard temperature. This represents a safety and utilization turning point, since decomposition of any concentration above this amount is capable of transforming the liquid entirely to heated gas (the higher the concentration, the hotter the resulting gas). This very hot steam/oxygen mixture can then be used to generate maximal thrust, power, or work, but it also makes explosive decomposition of the material far more hazardous.

Normal propellant grade concentrations therefore vary from 70 to 98%, with common grades of 70, 85, 90, and 98%. Many of these grades and variations are described in detail in the United States propellant specification number MIL-P-16005 Revision F, which is currently available. The available suppliers of high concentration propellant grade hydrogen peroxide are generally one of the large commercial companies which make other grades of hydrogen peroxide; including Solvay Interox, FMC and Degussa. Peroxide Propulsionis upgrading technical grade hydrogen peroxide to HTP. Other companies which have made propellant grade hydrogen peroxide in the recent past include Air Liquide and DuPont. DuPont recently sold its hydrogen peroxide manufacturing business to Degussa.


Propellant grade hydrogen peroxide is available to qualified buyers. Typically this chemical is only sold to commercial companies or government institutions which have the ability to properly handle and utilize the material. Non-professionals have purchased 70% or lower concentration hydrogen peroxide (the remaining 30% is water with traces of impurities and stabilizing materials, such as tin salts, phosphates, nitrates, and other chemical additives), and increased its concentration themselves. Distillation is extremely dangerous with hydrogen peroxide; peroxide vapor can ignite or detonate depending on specific combinations of temperature and pressure. In general any boiling mass of high concentration hydrogen peroxide at ambient pressure will produce vapor phase hydrogen peroxide which can detonate. This hazard is mitigated, but not entirely eliminated with vacuum distillation. Other approaches for concentrating hydrogen peroxide are sparging and fractional crystallization.

High concentration hydrogen peroxide is readily available in 70, 90, and 98% concentrations in sizes of 1 gallon, 30 gallon, and bulk tanker truck volumes. Propellant grade hydrogen peroxide is being used on current military systems and is in numerous defense and aerospace research and development programs. Many privately funded rocket companies are using hydrogen peroxide, notably Blue Origin, and some amateur groups have expressed interest in manufacturing their own peroxide, for their use and for sale in small quantities to others.


Since many common substances catalyze peroxide exothermic decomposition into steam and oxygen, handling of HTP requires special care and equipment. Notably, the common materials iron and copper are incompatible with peroxide, but the reaction can be delayed for seconds or minutes depending on the grade of peroxide used.

Small hydrogen peroxide spills are easily dealt with by flooding the area with water. This not only cools any reacting peroxide, it also dilutes it thoroughly. Therefore sites that handle hydrogen peroxide are often equipped with emergency showers, and have hoses and people on safety duty.

Contact with skin causes immediate whitening due to the production of oxygen below the skin. Extensive burns occur unless washed off in seconds. Contact with eyes can cause blindness, and so eye protection is usually used. Protective 'moon suit' style clothing which does not spontaneously absorb or combust with peroxide is de rigeur.

See also




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