NASA will test safer and more powerful spacecraft fuel on June 24 | News and opinions


This new fuel is much safer for humans than the hydrazine it replaces, while offering a top performance of nearly 50%. This could be the key to bringing us to Mars.

NASA GPIM green fuel test vehicle

When the next SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket takes off from the Kennedy Space Center later this month, it will carry a spaceship fuel that is safer for humans, but also much more powerful than the fuel it replaces. NASA calls it green fuel, and that could be what brings us to Mars.

The STP-2 mission, scheduled for June 24, will be the first to demonstrate the new green fuel. This is the result of NASA's Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), whose mission was to create an alternative to conventional chemical propulsion systems. In particular, NASA wished to stop using hydrazine because it required "protective clothing, thick rubber gloves and oxygen tanks" when handling. The new fuel instead uses a fuel / oxidant mixture based on hydroxylammonium nitrate, called AF-M315E. Once in space, NASA intends to demonstrate green fuel in action as it propels the GPIM test vehicle shown above.

By eliminating hydrazine and using this new fuel, the safety risks disappear. It is therefore not only safer to work with, but also save time (from a few weeks to a few days) and therefore reduce the costs associated with spacecraft. Last bonus, and unquestionably the most important, the green fuel is much denser than the old fuel dependent hydrazine. Thanks to its improved performance of nearly 50%, spacecraft can travel the same distance or require less fuel to travel the same distance as before.

A better fuel is not just good news for NASA and SpaceX, it opens the door to smaller spacecraft, such as cubic satellites, to exploit. NASA is also keen to point out that the new green fuel will help bring humans back to the moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable presence in these areas by 2028. Ultimately, it could play a key role in bringing us on Mars.

As for the STP-2 mission, in addition to introducing the new fuel for the first time, it will carry a range of technologies and 24 satellites, including DSX, COSMIC-2, OCULUS, OTB, NPSAT, PROX-1 and many more. . of Cubesats. You can learn more about each of them on the SpaceX STP-2 mission page.


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