Part II : 1950 -1957

5. NACA Research on High-Energy Propellants



Boost from the Subcommittee


[78] Since the start of the Korean conflict in 1950, the NACA had submitted larger budget requests for aeronautical research each year, only to have the requests cut [79] sharply in final appropriations by an economy-minded Congress. Within the NACA, the rocket subcommittee, aided and abetted by the NACA rocket group, became convinced the NACA was not doing enough rocket research. To support this view, a comprehensive review of the NACA rocket program was conducted at the 26-27 June 1952 meeting of the subcommittee. By this time, theoretical work on propellant performance, carried out with the aid of computers, was far ranging and included hydrogen with oxygen and fluorine. In addition, the relationship of propellants and propulsion systems to missions was being studied. Experimental work centered around ammonia and ammonia-hydrazine mixtures as fuels and fluorine as oxidizer, using small engines. Research with liquid hydrogen was still in preparation.16


After reviewing the program, the rocket subcommittee passed a resolution that was to have far-reaching consequences:


WHEREAS, The rocket propulsion research effort of the NACA is highly commendable and of good quality, and
WHEREAS, The NACA rocket propulsion research activity is at much too low a level to be consistent with the importance of rocket propulsion to military services, and
WHEREAS, The rocket propulsion research at the NACA is, in general, being conducted on equipment which is of such small scale that the results obtained are only of limited value to the rocket engine contractors, and
WHEREAS, A function of the NACA is to serve the rocket propulsion industry as an advanced research agency,
BE IT RESOLVED, That the Special Subcommittee on Rocket Engines recommends to the NACA that the research activity on rocket propulsion be expanded and emphasis placed on a broader and more advanced approach to the solution of rocket propulsion problems.17


The subcommittee then listed nine problem areas that should be added to the NACA program, but none mentioned hydrogen or other high-energy propellants.*


The rocket subcommittee resolution was presented to the parent Power Plant Committee by Zucrow; it was approved and passed to the NACA Executive Committee, which also approved it. Word passed from Washington to Cleveland to intensify the planning of rocket facilities.


* They included scaling factors for designing large-thrust rockets, causes and remedies of combustion oscillations, composite and multiple-stage missiles (in cooperation with structural and aerodynamics reseach teams), nitrogen oxides as oxidizers, rocket propulsion for fighter aircraft, problems of using nitric acid as an oxidizer, variable-expansion nozzles, and altitude performance of rockets.