Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants
Ignition! is the story of the search for a rocket propellant which could be trusted to t ...more
Parts become a bit dry in the latter half, as the basic science converges more and more on a few optimal fuels. As implied by the title, you won't hear very much about solid fuels or hydroge ...more
The topic is the development of liquid rocket propellants (fuels, oxidizers, and monopropellants) roughly 1940 - 1970. This was a large intensive chemical-engineering effort. Rocket propellants have a remarkably wide range of design constraints, some of which I would never have thought of on my own. They have to be high-energy compounds that can be reliably lit, but that are safe to store (sometimes f ...more
So if you can read the following random page from the book and then think...."I'll be happy to do that 200 times more"......then you're in for a treat....otherwise 3-stars.
"Then as O2 is essentially insoluble in nitric acid, it bubbles out of it and the pressure builds up and your acid turns red from the NO2. What t ...more
At the dawn of the 20th Century humans around the globe -- in Russia, Germany, England, the United States and China -- dreamed of firing rockets into space. Initially unaware of each other, their efforts pursued similar paths. And by the middle of the century there was a consensus: a rocket engine fu ...more
It is astonishing that the book is as popular as it is considering how technical it is. I am not a chemist and a rather slow mathematician, so a lot of the book was inaccessible to me. However, why people read it is for the other part, the snarky, candid, and fascinating look into the Wild West days of rocket propellant developmen ...more
The text reads quite well for ...more
Clark, John D. Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2017. With forward by Isaac Asimov. Original edition 1972.
This is a snarky historical account of the development of rocket fuels, post-World War II, by one of the participants. On the way, the author explains how one evaluates a rocket and what makes a good rocket fuel. A fair bit of basic chemistry and physics is required to follow the book.
The account is b...more
Certainly one of the most quotable books I've encountered for a while. Each chapter presented several excerpts which it was impossible not to share with someone or other. Part of this is certainly Clarke's writing style, which exudes a sort of flippant humour even when he is detailing something as dry as the chemical structure of some complex hydrocarbon. But much of the book's appeals comes from how genuinely crazy and dangerous the history of rocket propellants was. In what other field could e ...more
Ignition! is a world apart from the type of nonfiction I usually read. Much of the nonfiction I consume could broadly be classified as pop-sci ...more
He visited me some weeks later, and I asked him what Jefferson's substituted piperazines were used for. He answered, in a drawl as flat as Texas, "Well, they're a lot of farmers down our way, and they raise a lot of hawgs. And the hawgs get intestinal worms, and don't fatten up the way they should. So the farmer puts some of the piperazine in their feed, and the worm goes to sleep and forgets to hold on. And when he wakes up the hawg isn't there any more!"
Even if you don't much like chemistry ...more
It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that's the least of the problem. It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic t...more
The text stretched my high school chemistry to its breaking point, and then broke it. While I won't pretend to understand much of the actual science, I was drawn in by Dr. Clark's bone-dry prose and hilariously understated anecdotes, as well as his humourously cy ...more
J.D.Clark is a wonderful storyteller while being a scientist. This book will flood you with knowledge of liquid propellants you never expected, BUT you will probably need wikipedia to get through it. It's a scientific read that is also entertaining. You can see through the eyes of a man who shaped a small part of our history. The struggles but also the amusement and fascinatio ...more
This book will be a reread. John delves deeply into the history of rocket propulsion, from the first ideal by Robbert Goddard to the Space shuttle. It was an early intro to terms such as
specific impulse - a metric for how efficiently a rocket uses propellant. Dimensionally, thrust/mass flow rate
hydrazine - apparently this and flouride where the gold starred fuels of the book.
and hypergolic, meaning that when two propellants make conta ...more
What can I say. It's a pretty great book. If you are at all interested in rocket fuels or chemistry, I highly recommend it. While I don't have the faintest clue about chemistry, the anecdotes alone are worth reading the book for, and I can only imagine that ch ...more
The chemistry does get a little dense, but its a good read regardless.
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