1994 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@igc.org>
Date: Mon, 05 Dec 1994 11:00:43 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military

 In August, 1990, the National Toxics Campaign Fund published my
(Lenny Siegel's) report, NO FREE LAUNCH, pointing out that the the
burning of solid rocket fuel, whether in testing, waste disposal, launching,
or demilitarization, was hazardous to the environment. Solid rocket fuel is
made up principally of aluminum powder and ammonium perchlorate. When
it burns, aluminum oxide and hydrogen chloride are emitted. Hydrogen
chloride becomes hydrochloric acid in the presence of water - thus the
emissions cause acid precipitation. The general toxicity of aluminum oxide is
under debate, but there is clear evidence of hazards in an acidic environment,
such as the exhaust from a solid rocket motor.

 When solid rocket motors burn in the stratosphere, the hydrogen
chloride quickly breaks down into ozone-depleting chloride ions. (The
ozone-depleting potential of the aluminum oxide remains to be researched.)
Consequently, space shuttle launches are the largest single source of ozone-
depletion, though they are dwarfed by the combined effect of global
industrial releases of chlorofluorocarbons.

 Solid rockets are used in battlefield missiles, intercontinental ballistic
missiles, sea-launched ballistic missiles, and large launch motors such as the
strap-on boosters for the space shuttle, which uses a liquid fuel main engine.
When Congress terminated NASA's proposed Advanced Solid Rocket
Motor, a larger shuttle booster, last year, the environmental hazards were
one of the objections put forward by opponents.

 In the near future I will be posting items that summarize new
findings and issues involving solid rocket motors. I would appreciate it if
anyone else with such information would post it as well, as a response to
this item.

Lenny Siegel
CAREER/PRO and Pacific Studies Center

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