Chemistry in Space Technology - Lingaya's Vidyapeeth - SOBAS


Chemical systems are essential for many launch vehicle applications, including those involving propellants, polymers, chemicals, materials, energy storage systems, and analytical characterisation. The primary areas where chemical systems are necessary are listed below.

The main bulk of a rocket’s response is composed of chemical propellants. They are essential for overcoming Earth’s gravity and launching the rocket into space. The third law of motion of Newton serves as the basis for how the rocket operates. Fuel and oxidizer are combined together (or in a single molecule) to form propellants, which, when ignited, go through simultaneous oxidation and reduction (combustion and burning) to release energy. A rocket engine produces thrust by ejecting mass flow at the maximum possible velocity after burning. Solid, liquid, and hybrid propellants are the three main categories utilized in rocketry.

  1. The simplest kind of propellants is solid ones, which combine a fuel and an oxidizer in a solid form. Typically, the mixture consists of metal particles as the fuel and ammonium perchlorate as the oxidizer, along with binders and compounds that regulate the fire rates and combustion characteristics.
  2. Typically, liquid propellants are a combination of a fuel and an oxidizer contained in discrete liquid containers. Complex propellants offer a number of advantages, including higher specific impulse, precise control over flow and proportions, and improved throttle ability.
  3. The benefits of both solid and liquid propellants are combined in hybrid propellants. They are made up of a liquid oxidizer and a solid fuel. The liquid oxidizer helps the fuel burn, and the exhaust gases are released from the rocket engine to create thrust.

In order to produce polymers and ceramics for use in space applications, materials sciences are essential. In the demanding circumstances of space, polymers and ceramics have certain qualities and capacities that are advantageous.

  • Polymeric systems are crucial because they display thermal stability across a large temperature range (from 20 K to 1200 K), have enough strength for launch vehicle applications, and can withstand the harsh conditions of space.
  • Silicones are organic-inorganic hybrids with a wide operating temperature range. The thermal stability of silicones can be further enhanced by the insertion of rigid groups into the chain backbone.
  • Due to its chemical composition, polyimides are one of the potential candidates for cryo temperature applications.
  • Silicates are potential high temperature resistant inorganic polymers, which have proven capability up to 1400 K as base resins for coatings for thermal control purposes, especially for interplanetary/re-entry
  • Advanced ceramic materials are the top contender for applications involving reusable launch vehicles (RLVs), where high temperature stability, oxidation resistance, preservation of strength at high temperatures, and other factors are crucial.


Electrical energy is very necessary to run every piece of machinery on launch vehicles and carry out the objectives of all space missions. The quantity of energy frequently determines how long a mission will last under difficult operating conditions. To maintain a constant supply of power, rechargeable energy storage systems with redundant units are used.

The main source of power for aircraft is electrochemical energy storage, such as fuel cells, super capacitors, and rechargeable batteries. These systems are necessary to power launch vehicle and spacecraft instruments and on-board systems, pyro ignition, navigation and guiding systems (actuators), telemetry and tracking, and other systems.

By analyzing and evaluating chemicals and materials for launch vehicle structures, propellants, pyrotechnics, adhesives, thermal protection systems, energy systems, etc., chemical characterisation plays a crucial role in space research.

  • Spectroscopy
  • Imaging
  • Radiography


A life-support system in human spaceflight is a collection of equipment that enables a person to survive in space. The standard life-support system’s responsibilities include: monitoring the environment; managing the atmosphere; and managing water and waste. The life-support system’s components are life-critical and were created using safety engineering standards.

Although prebiotic chemistry does not seem to have existed for very long in the Earth’s history—possibly about 500 million years—all the chemicals needed for metabolism, the spread of information in an early gene, and the self-assembly of a protocell’s membrane must have been made accessible during this period. Both endogenous and exogenous organic synthesis theories call for a chemical environment, which on a warm planet in a habitable zone would let chemical reactions to take place on surfaces in the liquid phase as well as the gas phase.

                                                                                                  Dr. Swapnila Roy

                                                                                                   HOD, SOBAS

August 16, 2023

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