Propellant charge

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Propellant charges consist of propellant , a pyrotechnic set of chemical substances , also called propellants in this context , in solid, liquid or gaseous form, which, as energy carriers, aim for a large volume when activated and are thus able to move or move an object to deform.

Rocket technology

The propellant charge is the fuel for the engine , see rocket .

Weapons technology

Firing of a howitzer (RML 8 inch 70 cwt howitzer) in Malta with a propellant charge of 500 g

Propellant charges are used in weapon technology to drive a projectile through the barrel of a weapon by generating gas pressure . After ignition, the propellant charge burns down, creating the required high pressure through the combustion gases that are created. From a pyrotechnic point of view, this is not a “propellant”, but an ejector .

The burning rate of the propellant charges is influenced by various parameters in order to adapt them to their respective intended use.

These parameters can include:

  • Surface quality,
  • Grain size,
  • chemical additives.

Nitrocellulose powder

In modern weapons, low-smoke nitrocellulose powder (NC powder) is used as a propellant charge.

One differentiates:

  • single base powders (NC only);
  • dibasic powder (NC and another propellant - mostly nitroglycerin ), e.g. B. Cordite ;
  • polybasic powder [NC and two (rarely more) other propellants - e.g. B. nitroglycerin and nitroguanidine ].


The propellant charge in a flintlock or muzzle loader consists of black powder or black powder substitutes, such as B. Pyrodex . Based on the grain size of the black powder, the purpose for long or short guns results .

Other areas of application

Propellant charges can also be found in many other areas of technology. The airbag of a car, for example, has a propellant charge in the form of a gas generator , which generates the necessary volume to eject the airbag, to deploy it and to generate the internal pressure. There is also a propellant charge inside certain fire extinguisher variants, which is intended to eject the extinguishing agent if necessary. When parachuting, a cutter on the automatic opening device cuts the locking loop of the reserve parachute using a propellant charge .

For propellant charges from model rockets see propellant charge (model rocket) .