NASA Spacecraft to Test "Green" Propellant and Propulsion System

Ball Aerospace engineers perform final checks before the spacecraft shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Ball Aerospace engineers perform final checks before the spacecraft shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida

June 18, 2019 | Source: Aerospace-Technology, 11 June 2019

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will test a non-toxic, rosé-coloured fuel and compatible propulsion system in space that could be used for missions to the Moon and other places in the future.

The system will be tested for the first time with the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), which is set to be launched on a SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket this month.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Edwards Air Force Base in California has developed the "green" fuel; the objective of the mission is to demonstrate the features of the propellant.

Spacecraft currently use the highly toxic fuel hydrazine as a propellant. However, the "green" fuel blends hydroxyl ammonium nitrate with an oxidizer that allows it to burn, creating an alternative to hydrazine.

Even though hydrazine is commonly used in spacecraft, it is highly toxic to humans. Those handling hydrazine will be required to follow safety precautions such as wearing protective suits, thick rubber gloves, and oxygen tanks.

On the contrary, GPIM requires fewer handling restrictions, cutting down the time taken to prepare for launch. Colorado-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies leads the NASA technology demonstration mission.

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