NASA goes green: NASA selects green propellant technology demonstration mission

Aug 16, 2012

NASA has selected a team led by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation of Boulder, Colo., for a technology demonstration of a high performance "green" propellant alternative to the highly toxic fuel hydrazine. With this award, NASA opens a new era of innovative and non-toxic green fuels that are less harmful to our environment, have fewer operational hazards, and decrease the complexity and cost of launch processing.

Today's use of hydrazine fuel for rockets, satellites and spacecraft is pervasive. Hydrazine is an efficient propellant and can be stored for long periods of time, but it also is highly corrosive and toxic. NASA is seeking new, non-toxic high performance green propellants that could be safely and widely used by rocketeers, ranging from government to industry and academia. Green propellants include liquid, solid, mono- propellant, which use one fuel source, or bi-propellants, which use two, and hybrids that offer safer handling conditions and lower environmental impact than current fuels.

"High performance green propellant has the potential to revolutionize how we travel to, from and in ," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "An effective green rocket fuel would dramatically reduce the cost and time for preparing and launching space missions while decreasing pollution and harm to our environment."

Following a solicitation and peer-review selection process, NASA chose the Green Propellant Infusion proposal and a team lead by Ball and co-investigators from the Aerojet Corporation in Redmond, Washington, the U.S. Research Laboratory at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at the Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico, NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the new mission.

NASA's Green Propellant Infusion Mission is expected to be developed and flown in approximately three years. The Space Technology Program will provide $45 million for the mission, with some additional cost-sharing by mission co-investigators.

This demonstration will bridge the gap between technology development and use of green propellant. The team will develop and fly a high performance green propellant, demonstrating and characterizing in space the functionality of the integrated propulsion system. Such a demonstration will provide the aerospace community with a new system-level capability for future missions.

Maturing a , such as a revolutionary green propellant, to mission readiness through relevant environment testing and demonstration is a significant challenge from a cost, schedule and risk perspective. 's Missions Program performs this function, bridging the gap between laboratory confirmation of a technology and its inital use on an operational mission.

Explore further: Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

More information: For more information about NASA's Space Technology Program and Technology Demonstration Missions, visit: www.nasa.gov/oct

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Glenn tests alternative green rocket engine

Aug 30, 2010

An extensive series of tests has been completed on a new rocket engine that will use a non-toxic propellant combination at NASA's Glenn Research Center. The reaction control engine that was tested provides 100 pounds of thrust ...

NASA Tests New Breed of Propulsion Engine

Jan 31, 2006

NASA engineers have successfully tested a new breed of reaction control engine and propulsion system. Aimed at furthering NASA's space exploration goals, the tests helped investigate the possibility of future space travel ...

NASA picks three proposals for flight demonstration

Aug 23, 2011

NASA has selected three proposals, including one from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., as Technology Demonstration Missions to transform space communications, deep space navigation and ...

NASA's new ion engine ready for missions in space

Apr 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A small robotic surveyor arrives to explore a near-Earth asteroid. Another robotic spacecraft is returning to Earth with a pristine comet surface sample. Meanwhile, a robotic explorer is approaching ...

Recommended for you

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

1 hour ago

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

17 hours ago

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

How many moons does Venus have?

Apr 23, 2014

There are dozens upon dozens of moons in the Solar System, ranging from airless worlds like Earth's Moon to those with an atmosphere (most notably, Saturn's Titan). Jupiter and Saturn have many moons each, ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jscroft
1.3 / 5 (14) Aug 16, 2012
What, Muslim outreach wasn't green enough?
Duude
1.3 / 5 (13) Aug 16, 2012
So long as green fuel is NEVER used in a manned launch. There are more than enough risks in manned launches to be introducing a new fuel so as to be pc. Protecting lives trumps political correctness.
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (15) Aug 16, 2012
The Morpheus that just blew up used methane. That's a potent green house gas. How 'green' is that?
geokstr
1 / 5 (13) Aug 16, 2012
Hey, to capture the wasted energy in all the launches, including the ones using algae and human waste as the fuels, they could attach a windmill propeller to the nose, and cover the entire rocket in solar cells.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (11) Aug 16, 2012
The Morpheus that just blew up used methane. That's a potent green house gas. How 'green' is that?
Not very much if we consider the shale fracing technology. Apparently the word "green" is missused here in the same way, like at the case of so-called biofuels (which are at least green by their color sometimes...) Interesting that they don't specify how long the propellant should be able to be stored in "ready to go" form. Also, they don't mention cryogenic fuels versus those that can be stored at room temperature.

More news stories

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

Professional and amateur astronomers join forces

(Phys.org) —Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time. These amateur astronomers devote hours ...

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

New breast cancer imaging method promising

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Research proves nanobubbles are superstable

The intense research interest in surface nanobubbles arises from their potential applications in microfluidics and the scientific challenge for controlling their fundamental physical properties. One of the ...

Using antineutrinos to monitor nuclear reactors

When monitoring nuclear reactors, the International Atomic Energy Agency has to rely on input given by the operators. In the future, antineutrino detectors may provide an additional option for monitoring. ...