Hybrid Rockets History

A Brief History of Hybrid Rocket Technology

Hybrid rocket propulsion has been studied and experimented with since the 1930's and possibly earlier. This document aims to give a brief, non-comprehensive overview of the history of hybrid rockets.

Early History (1932-1960)
  • 1932-1933: GIRD-9 (Soviet)- Liquid oxygen (LOX)/Gellified gasoline 60lbf. thrust motor. Built by Tikhonravov and the Korolev group. First flight August, 1933.
  • 1937: Coal/Gaseous Nitrous Oxide hybrid motor (Germany). 2,500lbf. thrust.
  • 1938-1939: LOX/Graphite (Germany) - built by H. Oberth.
  • 1938-1941: Coal/GOX (USA) - built by California Rocket Society.
  • 1947: Douglas Fir/LOX (USA) - built by Pacific Rocket Society.
  • 1951-1956: Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)/Polyethylene (USA) - GE initiates investigation into hybrids.

CSD's Li/LiH/PBAN-F2/O2 Hybrid Measured Isp=400 sec
Era of Enlightenment (1960-1980)

Important research was done at several large aerospace companies in the 1960's including:

  • Chemical Systems Division of UTC - Testing up to 40 klbf., Li/LiH/PBAN/FLOX motor developed 400s measured Isp, significant modeling efforts.
  • LPC: Lockheed Propulsion Company.
  • SRI: Stanford Research Institute.
  • ONERA (France)

Between 1964 and 1984, several flight systems developed including:

  • Target drone programs by Chemical Systems Division of UTC (Sandpiper, HAST, Firebolt).
  • LEX Sounding Rocket (ONERA, France).
  • FLGMOTOR Sounding Rocket (Sweden).
Recent History (1981-Present)
  • 1981-1985: Starstruck company developed and sea launched the Dolphin sounding rocket (35 klbf. thrust).
  • 1985-1995: AMROC Continuation of Starstruck.
    • Tested 10, 33 and 75 klbf. thrust sub-scale motors.
    • Developed and tested H-1800, a 250 klbf LOX/HTPB motor.
  • 1990's: Hybrid Propulsion Development Program (HPDP).
    • Successfully launched a small sounding rocket.
    • Developed and tested 250klbf. thrust LOX/HTPB motors.
  • 1998: First firing of paraffin-based hybrid at Stanford University.
  • 2002: Lockheed developed and flight tested a 24-inch LOX/HTPB sounding rocket called HYSR (60 klbf. thrust).
  • 2003: Scaled Composites and SpaceDev developed 20klbf. Nitrous oxide/HTPB hybrid motor for the sub-orbital manned vehicle SpaceShipOne.