In its simplest form a hybrid rocket consists of a pressure vessel (tank) containing the liquid propellant, the combustion chamber containing the solid propellant, and a valve isolating the two. When thrust is desired, a suitable ignition source is introduced in the combustion chamber and the valve is opened. The liquid propellant (or gas) flows into the combustion chamber where it is vaporized and then reacted with the solid propellant. Combustion occurs in a boundary layer diffusion flame adjacent to the surface of the solid propellant.
Generally the liquid propellant is the oxidizer and the solid propellant is the fuel because solid oxidizers are problematic and lower performing than liquid oxidizers. Furthermore, using a solid fuel such as HTPB or paraffin allows for the incorporation of high-energy fuel additives such as aluminium, lithium, or metal hydrides.
Common oxidizers include gaseous or liquid oxygen or nitrous oxide. Common fuels include polymers such as polyethylene, cross-linked rubber such as HTPB or liquefying fuels such as paraffin.
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