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Space Science

NASA Announces Enviromentally Friendly Jet Fuel 323

drama writes "From the Press Release: 'Two years of collaboration between Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., and NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., have led to the development of a non-toxic, easily handled fuel made from a substance similar to what is used in common candles. The by-products of combustion of the new fuel are carbon dioxide and water; unlike conventional rocket fuel that produces aluminum oxide and acidic gasses, such as hydrogen chloride.' Or for pictures and more info, visit the site."
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NASA Announces Enviromentally Friendly Jet Fuel

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  • FP! (Score:4, Funny)

    by ak_hepcat ( 468765 ) <> on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:39PM (#5076175) Homepage Journal
    Woot! I feel sorry for all the bees that NASA will be milking, just to make enough rocket fuel for the next launch..
    • No, not beeswax, paraffin wax. As in fossil fuel.

      Hey, here's another wax, earwax; get 'em syringed. Cos, you obviously didn't listen well to the audio interviews on that site :-)

  • Paraffin? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dr Caleb ( 121505 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:40PM (#5076183) Homepage Journal
    Making the fuel from a paraffin derivative gives new meaning to "Let's light this candle!"

    • I just want to know what scent it comes in. If it's one of those really heavy scents like <Steel> Magnolia's I'll pass on going to see the launch. ;-)

      Rose would be good, especially if it got off of the ground. ;-P
  • jet != rocket (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    jet fuel != rocket fuel
    • This is prolly pretty duh but, jets use more fuel than rockets by like, a factor of 10,000 right?
    • Re:jet != rocket (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:18PM (#5076491)
      In fact, this article is about solid rocket fuel, which up to this point has been mostly dirty stuff (often a mixture of polyurethane binder, ammonium perchlorate oxidizer and powdered aluminum fuel). It's not jet fuel at all. (Jet fuel is basically just kerosene).

      As for liquid fuel, the upper stages of the Saturn V and the main Space Shuttle engines burn H2 and O2, producing nothing but pure water. OTOH, most liquid fuel rockets on unmanned boosters burn nasty chemicals like N2O4 and UDMH (because they were often derived from ICBMs, which you want to keep fueled all the time, so no cryogenic fuels.)

      At any rate, if it can burn, some rocket has used it as a fuel. Find out more here [] and here [].

      • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @07:13PM (#5076890) Journal
        At any rate, if it can burn, some rocket has used it as a fuel.


        Oh please, please, please say yes.

      • by McSpew ( 316871 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @08:41PM (#5077490)

        According to a quote in this press release [], the parrafin-based engines can be throttled, shutdown and even restarted, all of which are impossible with current solid-rocket motors.

        "A hybrid rocket equivalent to the Space Shuttle's solid rockets would be about the same diameter, but would be somewhat longer," said Stanford University Professor Brian Cantwell. "Hybrid rockets, using the paraffin-based fuel, can be throttled over a wide range, including shut-down and restart. That's one reason why they could be considered as possible replacements for the Shuttle's current solid rocket boosters that cannot be shut off after they are lit," he said. "One design concept being considered is a new hybrid booster rocket that is able to fly back to the launch site for recharging," he added.
      • Well, actually the article is about the solid fuel component of hybrid rocket motors.

        A hybrid is a solid/liquid fuel combination - the liquid part is the oxidizer (usually O2,) while the solid part is usually a hydrocarbon (e.g. urethane, rubber, paper.)

        As the article notes, hybrids have many benefits - they're stable under a wide range of conditions because the dirty stuff isn't mixed full of oxidizer, they often burn cleanly because the oxidizer can be pure O2 rather than am per, they can be throttled by varying the amount of oxidizer entering the chamber.

        The traditional downside with hybrids was burn rate - you could get a long, weak burn, but not a fast, high-thrust burn. This makes hybrids unsuitable as booster rockets.

        Seems these new motors have the high burn rate. Yipee!
    • Re:jet != rocket (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Russ Steffen ( 263 )

      You want to bet?

      Jet-A fuel is basically kerosene. Kerosene when mixed with an oxidizer is a rather commonly used rocket fuel. Guess what fueled the Saturn V.

      Of course this story is talking about solid rocket fuel, which makes the headline just as incorrrect as your comment.

      • Rockets use RP-1, a purified form of kerosene. Regular kerosene has impurities that clog up parts of the rocket motor during sustained operation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:42PM (#5076198)
    Just like petroleum! How environmentally friendly! (sarcasm aside, this is a step forward from existing fuels, but ecotopia it ain't)
    • by lugonn ( 555020 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:08PM (#5076434)
      Very friendly actually.

      Petrol combustion releases mostly Carbon Monoxide, Sulfer Dioxide, and various nitrogen compounds (diesel and gas release diff kinds/amounts of nitrogen) that are very difficult for the environment to breakdown or assimilate.

      However, Carbon Dioxide and Water are easily broken down and assimilated in nature. Trees breath Carbon Dioxide and drink it for instance.

      • You should have said "much more friendly", but not "very friendly", for its not friendly enough to get that high mark.

        Remember, Carbon dioxide is what causes global warming in the first place, so its not clean fuel (remember the Kyoto protocol?). However, the solution is much better than many other alternatives, so we agree on that point.
        • As long as the refresh rate provided by plant life keeps pace with the production of carbon dioxide, there is nothing wrong at all with the stuff. Maybe the Kyoto protocol should have focused more on planting trees, or something...
      • I suspect that they meant the majority of the combustion byproducts are water and co2, not all of them, you simply don't have combustion involving carbon and not get funky reactions. My guess it that this new "clean" fuel will be just a bad as kerosene when it comes to pollution, but the point is: that is a hell of a lot better than traditional solid rocket fuels, which contain a lot of heavy metals and other very nasty stuff.

  • Fuel? (Score:5, Funny)

    by nother_nix_hacker ( 596961 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:42PM (#5076199)
    They should just fill it with coke and shake it then take the lid off sending it into orbit. Sometimes the simple solutions are the best.
  • The by-products of combustion of the new fuel are carbon dioxide and water

    Isn't that the whole global warming thing? That we're releasing too much carbon dioxide and its causing a global warm up?
    • There are ways of dealing with CO2 emissions that we're not currently taking, but that we could. One of those involves injecting CO2 into oceanic depths where it's likely that it will remain in solution.
    • by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:47PM (#5076260) Homepage Journal
      And it does make you wonder how many cars = one booster when it comes to total emissions produced... I'd say, a couple million, on top of all the heat waste you dump into the atmosphere. I want to see an environmentalist chain himseld to a rocket >:)
      • And it does make you wonder how many cars = one booster when it comes to total emissions produced... I'd say, a couple million, on top of all the heat waste you dump into the atmosphere

        Yes but the rocket takes only a few minutes to leave the atmosphere, while the cars keep driving for hours and hours. So I wouldn't say it's too bad. Jet airplanes are a different problem though.
    • It gets better. Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, and it is also a product of combustion. You're contributing to global warming every time you boil water.

      I think the innovation at hand is not that the fuels are eco-friendly per se, but that they are not toxic. What they've used for rocket fuel in the past was highly toxic. I remember reading a comparison on the relative toxicities of various materials. Anti-nuclear protestors like to exclaim that plutonium is "the most toxic substance on earth." In reality, a person can be exposed to and inhale a fair amount of plutonium and not show any symptoms for years. On the other hand, one good lungful of booster rocket fuel will kill a grown person. That's why boosters have to be filled in the factory; they'd be too toxic to be fueled in an open area like a launch pad.
      • Water vapor is a strong greenhouse gas, but it's only problematic if released in very high altitudes. So, the water vapor released by cars is not a problem, the water vapor released by airplanes, however, is.
      • I'm no fan of the anti-nuclear Luddite mob, but this statement jumped out at me:
        In reality, a person can be exposed to and inhale a fair amount of plutonium and not show any symptoms for years.
        Whoa, way wrong there, friend. Inhaled plutonium releases massive quantities of alpha radiation, resulting in radiation sickness and death (by pulmonary edema -- drowning in the fluid released by the damaged lungs) in short order (a matter of days, at the outside). In addition, neutrons from plutonium particles ionize tissue, transmuting its atoms into isotopes which are, themselves, radioactive.

        The dosage required to cause these effects is less than 100 milligrams. A "lungful" of rocket fuel would presumably be a quantity greater than 100 mg.

        Of course, this assumes a weaponized (finely powdered) form of PuO2; plutonium in the reactors used in spacecraft power units is pelletized and heavily shielded -- and would not devolve to a weapon-like powder under even the worst possible launch mishap.

        • Re:Correct me if I'm wrong

          You're wrong [].


          Ralph Nader has said that a pound of plutonium could cause 8 billion cancers, and former Senator Ribicoff has said that a single particle of plutonium inhaled into the lung can cause cancer. There is no scientific basis for any of these statements as I have shown in a paper in the refereed scientific journal Health Physics (Vol. 32, pp. 359-379, 1977).

          There's a little bit of grandstanding at the beginning, but if you read on, it becomes clear that the author has solid evidence to back it up.

          Is the author of this paper a kook? Judge for yourself: he describes the procedure he used to reach his conclusions in great detail, complete with references to original data sources and to other research entities. It should be trivial to investigate the bona fides of the author and his sources, and reach your own informed conclusion. Perhaps you have an aunt, or a cousin, or a friend in the field, who would be willing to review the document with a critical eye, and give you their own expert opinion on its veracity.

          Nader's own credentials notwithstanding, it seems more likely that Plutonium is a bugbear, and not the angel of death he claims it is.

    • by ZarfMouse ( 154055 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:50PM (#5076295) Homepage Journal
      First off: current rocket fuel also lets off C02 so this stuff is at least better than what they're using in that that is _all_ that it lets off.

      Second off: it all depends on what the fuel is made from. If it is made from some biomass then it lets off only as much C02 as was recently absorbed from the atmosphere by the plants that it is made from. If it is made from fossil fuels then it is introducing new C02 that hasn't been around for millenia, a serious shock to the global balance.

      Third off: C02 from rocket launches isn't nearly as big a deal as it is from cars and heavy industry. It is a drop in the bucket, comparatively. Rockets probably don't have much of a global impact. The problem is the local impact of the toxics that they do let off which directly affects the area surrounding the launch site.
    • Yes, but please remember that global warming is not a proven fact. What people seem to forget is we've seen a correlation, causation has not been proved. Humans release a lot of CO2 gas. This is a fact. The average temperature has been in a general upward trend lately, also a fact. Fine, that doesn't mean that the two have anything to do with eachother.

      There are plenty of other likely possabilities for the temperature trend including just a natural trend. Temperatue moves as cycles within cycles, it cycles during the day, month, year, deceade, and so on up. As is obvious it has gone to the cold extreme several times in the past during the ice ages.

      Global warming is something that many people just accept as a fact because so many envrionmental groups spout it off as a fact, but it isn't at this point. Correlation does not imply causation, and thus far there has been no proof of CO2 causing the average temperature change.

      Now, before someone starts frothing at the mouth about this please remember: I am talking about scientific fact here. What you believe or feel and so on is not relivant. To be scientifically relivant, causation MUST by proved. The theory states that higher levels of CO2 gas CASUES the temperature increase, hence the caustion part must be proven.
      • Take what environmental groups say with salt, but almost all scientits who study this field say that there is a very good chance that humans are affecting global climate change. This is based on lots of climate simulation data and other sources that are not conclusive (since it is a little hard to run such experements on the real earth), but provide a really solid argument that it is worth our effort to reduce greenhouse emissions in case we are doing something bad.

        And it is definately true that higher atmospheric levels of CO2 will increase the average global temperature. The questions that are ambigious are to what extent, and how C02 emissions interact with the carbon cycle to determine total atmospheric C02.
  • "Jet" fuel (Score:5, Informative)

    by MaximumBob ( 97339 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:42PM (#5076207)
    The headline says jet fuel. The link says rocket fuel.

    One of those would be a gigantic step towards a better environment. Unfortunately, this isn't it.

  • It's not jet fuel, it's ROCKET FUEL. Put it in a jet and it goes BOOM!!!!!
  • Great news! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yog ( 19073 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:43PM (#5076213) Homepage Journal
    Cheap and clean is the key to colonizing the solar system. When it costs relatively little to lift people and habitats into orbit is when the mass migration to space will begin. Environmentally friendly exhaust is a nice bonus that will help disarm Green opposition to such ventures.

    • Yes this is big news (Score:5, Informative)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:07PM (#5076419)
      When a shuttle takes off, the pH of the surrounding lakes and ponds drops to around pH2 (think battery acid). This comes from the solid fuel boosters. Nassa has had an outstanding call for almost ten years now to fix this problem.

      when people started talking about 1 launch a month or 1 launch a week, the amount of chlorine that would be placed in the upper atmoshpere whould be enough to destroy the entire ozone layer in a few decades. The only comparable natural phenomena is a volcanic eruption which puts even more chlorine (and other acids) into the upper atmoshere than a shuttle launch.

      with china, japan, north korea, europe and boeing all coming on line as rocket launch systems this is going to be increasingly important. Of course not all of these are solid fuel rockets (the culprit).

  • Jet Fuel? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cyclopedian ( 163375 )
    Where on the press release does it say 'Jet Fuel'? It's all about rocket fuel. It would be intresting to be on a retrofitted 777 with two of these strapped on. Can anyone say 'supersonic'?

    Then again, can anyone say 'metal fatigue in 2 seconds'?

    • Not only that, but the artical is refering to solid rocket fuel, not liquid rocket fuel which is already "green".

      Can anyone say 'how the fuck do we turn these things off'?

    • It would be intresting to be on a retrofitted 777 with two of these strapped on. Can anyone say 'supersonic'?

      I can see the Darwin Award (JATO Category) description now, though more likely involving an old Impala than a plane:

      "When the Greens, auto shop, and rocketry club got together, we knew something was about to go horribly wrong..."
  • by SoCalChris ( 573049 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:43PM (#5076224) Journal
    The story says jet fuel, but the article says rocket fuel. There's a big difference, isn't there?

    If it was jet fuel, and it was cheap enough to make Nasa could sell the rights to produce it and become more self sufficient. If it's rocket fuel though, there would be much less of a market and would really only benefit them.
    • NASA can't sell things to make money. All the money NASA makes on anything go back into the GAO's general fund and thus into the pockets of Congress people and their pet projects. If NASA did make money off their services with stuff like the Shuttle and their launch and control facilities they wouldn't be in the financial pickle they are in.
  • by Tofino ( 628530 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:46PM (#5076254)
    The real question beyond the harm it does when it burns is, where do we get a supply of this fuel from? We're going to need some way to toot around the galaxy long after we've burned up all the dinosaurs (fossil fuel).
    • By the time we need to make frequent round trips to Andromeda, hopefully we'll be able to do cheap hydrogen fusion. We've got a bunch of hydrogen, and I bet there are other good sources out there in our solar system.
    • NASA has already verified the workability of an Ion Drive, and tested it with Deep Space 1. It works quite well, and will carry us all around the galaxy.

      The problem is we'll never exceed the speed of light that way, which means we'll never get out of our solar neighborhood.

      The key to space is faster than light travel, period. Everything else is just baby-stepping around the living room.
  • Hey!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:46PM (#5076257)
    Slashdotting (DDOS) a .gov site can get you 20 years to life. Chrisd, you're about to be classigied as an enemy of the state.
  • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kakos ( 610660 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:48PM (#5076265)
    Granted, a rocket launch probably belches out a LOT of these chemicals, but there is a launch how often? Not very often, last I recall. The polution they produce is negligable compared to the total polution cars produce.

    NASA should be spending this money on more important endeavors, such as the ISS or perhaps even another moon trip. Blowing money to produce environmentally safe rocket fuel is stupid and inefficient.
    • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

      But many of the things developed by Nasa could have been deemed a "waste of money" for just using in the shuttle, But technology has a habit of trickling down to the consumer market, and you never know, they *may* be able to create a less explosive fuel with similair enviromentaly friendly charicteristics
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:10PM (#5076442)
      Because the launch site is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the country and the local polution after each launch is substantial? Because the ability to abort burn increases safety quite a bit? Because it reduces operational costs? Wow sounds like a good idea to me =)

      Launches were occouring every 3-4 weeks for a while so that is quite a few launches a year.
    • Ummm... what? Are you saying you'd rather they spend their money on the useless and failing ISS or another trip to the moon (which was originally done only for PR) rather than develop something that will slow down their destruction of the environment? With this new rocket fuel, they will have a new argument for funding (the environmentalists groups will probably lean more in favor of them, rather than leaning against them, if they move to make a case at all). Additionally, they can sell this fuel to other companies/organizations that launch things into space, like the European and Japanese Space Agencies or Boeing/Lockheed/Arianespace/etc.

      The idea (now proven) that strange, alternative fuels work may even come down to airplanes and later automobiles. NASA advocates have always said that they discover things which make our lives better. This may eventually develop into one of those things.
    • With all due respect:

      I think you're an idiot and here's why:

      0) You probably didn't read the press release.

      1) scram-jets.

      2) this is a COST SAVING MEASURE. Did you not notice the mention of the fact that this procedure costs LESS than using solid state fuels?
    • by sohp ( 22984 )
      is a launch how often? Not very often, last I recall.

      On average, somewhere on earth there is one launch to orbit or beyond every week. That includes all the big rockets, US and foreign, like STS, Atlas, Delta, Titan, Proton, Soyuz, Ariane, Long March, H2-A etc. Smaller rockets with suborbital payloads and are common.
  • Now they can launch their SCUD missiles full of Anthrax, Botulism, or whatever, and need not be concerned about polluting the atmosphere!
  • of explosive of choice for ALL GOOD eco-terrorists :).

    How long before my car will run on a derivitive of this ? I remember getting av-gas when in high school for the friday night drags :) 1/4 tank of mondo octane goodness...
  • NOT a jet fuel (Score:5, Informative)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:53PM (#5076325) Homepage Journal
    This is NOT a jet fuel, this is a component of a rocket fuel.

    In fact, jet fuel is highly refined kerosene, or what the Brits used to call "parafin oil" - because it is a relative of the parafin wax used to seal canning jars, and MAKE CANDLES!

    This fuel is a solid form of parafin that, when combined with a liquid or gaseous oxidizer makes a rocket.

    The idea is this:

    a purely liquid fuel rocket has 2 liquids you have to handle, the oxidizer and the fuel (e.g. LO2 and kerosene, LO2 and LH2, etc.) That's twice as many hoses, twice as many turbopumps, twice as much to go wrong.

    A purely solid fuel rocket has no liquids, but once lit off, it will burn until all the fuel is gone. You cannot throttle it down, stop it, or restart it - the best you can do is eject it.

    A hybrid rocket uses a solid fuel and a liquid oxidizer. You can throttle it by varying the flow rate on the oxidizer. You can stop it, and restart it again. You still need some tubing for the oxidizer, and a turbopump, but only one.

    However, I doubt the only reaction products from this are carbon dioxide and water - more likely you are going to get unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and water.

    Granted, that's nicer than what the SRB's on the Shuttle use - aluminum and ammonium perchlorate IIRC.
  • Paraffins (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SimJockey ( 13967 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:59PM (#5076364) Homepage Journal
    Actually, paraffins are a broad class of hydrocarbons not just the familiar candle wax. Paraffins are characterized by having unsaturated C=C bonds, whereas olefins are all saturated C-C bonds. Not sure what kinds of paraffins would have the kind of energy density they would need for rocketry level thrust, maybe aromatics?

    As a ChE, this is cool. But the really interesting part is the oxidizer (which they give no details on) and the nozzle. Vapourizing and mixing must be amazingly fast.
  • Who cares I want to know what oxidizer they are using. I think one of the pictures said LOX on it but I could not really tell.

  • hoax ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Spaham ( 634471 )
    is it me, or does the picture at s/paraffin/medium/Rocketfire04.jpg look furiously like a photorealistic rendering ? The way the shrubberies stick out in front, and the glimmering on the metal structures on the right all look so unreal... And the flame really looks like a particle rendered image. Am I the only one ? PS please pardon my bad english...
    • is it me, or...

      It's you. It looks like overly magnified DV or maybe a digital camera. Or a very poorly compressed JPEG.
  • Not a big deal. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Y Taylor ( 455585 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:08PM (#5076425) Homepage
    First of all, NASA has a LONG way to go before it has a launch frequency high enough for any pollution from their launch vehicles to be significant.

    Second, there are plenty of rocket designs for liquid rockets that already produce only water or water and CO2; so an "environmentally friendly rocket" is not a new thing. The Saturn V, for example used Kerosene for fuel.

    What is significant news for nerds is that this is work on a hybrid rocket design. Hybrid rocket motors are interesting because they combine some of the benifits of solid and liquid designs... but that probably wouldn't be considered newsworthy to mainstream media outlets. So, my guess is that this NASA center wrote up a press release and stuck in the magic words "environmentally friendly" to get the news to give them some coverage. The fact that we don't need eco-rockets yet, or that other minimally polluting rocket designs have been around for over half a century are irrelevent because the people they are selling themselves to don't have a background in rocketry, don't bother to check their facts, and many of them feel happy inside when they think they are helping to fund something that protects Mother Earth. And meanwhile the pros and cons of hybrid rocket designs (and probably the things that the test program was really supposed to find out) don't get any attention at all.

    Call me when they are testing cubane fuels.
    • Re:Not a big deal. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @07:44PM (#5077074) Journal
      The Saturn V, for example used Kerosene for fuel.

      Well, the first stage, at any rate. The second and third stage engines were hydrogen fuelled. (Liquid oxygen served as oxidizer for all three stages.) Granted; both fuels are significantly friendlier to the environment than the solid fuels used aboard the Shuttle.

      The thing about the Saturn V is that it wasn't reusable. It had great payload capacity to earth orbit, but you had to throw away twenty or thirty storeys of rocket parts to put stuff up there. With the Shuttle, the solid rocket booster shells are recovered, inspected, reassembled, and refuelled.

      Probably the most important consideration: liquid fuels are finicky--you need pumps, valves, and cryogenics. Solid fuel doesn't slosh. Solid rocket boosters are easy to use. Still rocket science, but simpler, more reliable, cheaper rocket science. Kudos to NASA for improving their technology while considering the environment.

  • Must be a very poor design, I do not see any mach diamonds ...

    • I don't think you are supposed to ask about how much thrust it produces or ISP or packing density or anything like that. Don't you understand, this is about the ENVIRONMENT, and it is also probably FOR THE CHILDREN! There is no need to ask sensible questions, they used the "E" word. Just give them funding so you can feel good about yourself for caring about Mother Earth.

      Now, isn't that easier than turning off unneeded lights or sorting your trash...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:15PM (#5076470)
    The web site is short on details. They are saying that this new motor has the ability to throttle down and reignite. Depending on how well it can do this, you might be able to replace liquid rockets altogether.

    Also, they are talking about scaling the technology up from the demonstrator to space shuttle size with only a slight size penalty. This is all good, except they didn't mention the specific impulse of the fuel vs. the current solid boosters.

    Much better info can be found at, which suggests that this "solid" mixture must be cooled to keep it solid. However, a better source is s/aiaa-hr.pdf, which doesn't indicate that it needs to be cooled, and says the specific impulse is about 20% better than kerosene. I'm assuming they mean Kerosene/LOx and not Kerosene/H2O2.

    I would still like to see numbers on this stuff.
  • by ZanshinWedge ( 193324 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:28PM (#5076554)
    This is a new type of solid rocket fuel. Current high-grade solid rocket fuels use aluminum powders and such like. All jet fuels already produce "only" CO2 and water on combustion, as do many popular liquid rocket fuels (such as LOX/LH2 and LOX/Kerosene, the two most popular rocket fuels for launch vehicles).
  • NASA's CEO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nemus ( 639101 )
    I remember reading a couple of years or so ago that Nasa's new director, whose name I cannot remember for the life of me, was actually a former CEO, instead of a scientist or politician. I agreed with this at the time, and still do. He stated, and has followed through, that he wants NASA to be, if not probable, then at least not a financial disaster, while still respecting the engineers and scientists. Thats the reason that the Mars probes have been (relatively) cheap, but still (relatively) effective, and is probably why NASA would take a look into a cheaper fuel, whereas before they probably didn't give too much of a crap. And, of course, spending less, and focusing more on the details of the engineering not only means more missions and research can be performed, but also they're more likely to succeed.

    And for every person who thinks NASA produces nothing useful, two words: Compact Disc

  • from the press release:

    A hybrid rocket uses a liquefied oxidizer that is gasified before being injected into the combustion chamber containing the solid fuel.

    GASIFIED?!?! couldn't they have used a word that at least SOUNDS scientific? Is Aerosolized OK? How about "rendered gaseous"?

    I'm not sure I want to trust the future of space travel to people who "gasify" things.
  • Isn't combustion of a hydrocarbon by definition supposed to only leave you with H2O and CO2? It is only in imperfect combustion that you get carbon monoxide and when you add other things that it starts making NOx, sulfides and other unfriendly gasses. For example Methane and Oxygen. CH4 + O2 = CO2 and H2O. Propane (C3H8) and Oxygen (O2) = CO2 and H2O. The only difference is the amounts of CO2 and H2O produced. If you watch a vehicle with a V8 engine at a red light, you will frequently see water dripping out of the tail pipe. So it is good that NASA has "discovered" hydrocarbons. :)
  • John Carmack, are you out there?

    Can this fuel be used for amateur or semi-professional space ventures? Does it give any advantages over using, say, Peroxide fuel? How does the energy release/pound compare?

    I know Peroxide is pretty nasty stuff, so it would be cool if a safer to handle alternative came down the pike.

  • It's not rocket science. Um... never mind.
  • by freality ( 324306 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @10:34PM (#5078057) Homepage Journal
    For those wondering why this is getting funded, or whether rocket exhaust has significant environmental effects, I found an interesting page floating around:

    some highlights:


    Saturn V Rocket (1975)

    Due to a malfunction, the Saturn V Rocket burned unusually high in the atmosphere, above 300 km. This burn produced "a large ionospheric hole" (Mendillo, M. Et al., Science p. 187, 343, 1975). The disturbance reduced the total electron content more than 60% over an area 1,000 km in radius, and lasted for several hours. It prevented all telecommunications over a large area of the Atlantic Ocean. The phenomenon was apparently caused by a reaction between the exhaust gases and ionospheric oxygen ions. The reaction emitted a 6300 A airglow. Between 1975 and 1981 NASA and the US Military began to design ways to test this new phenomena through deliberate experimentation with the ionosphere.

    Orbit Maneuvering System (1981)

    Part of the plan to build the SPS space platforms was the demand for reusable space shuttles, since they could not afford to keep discarding rockets. The NASA Spacelab 3 Mission of the Space Shuttle made, in 1981, "a series of passes over a network of five ground based observatories" in order to study what happened to the ionosphere when the Shuttle injected gases into it from the Orbit Maneuvering System (OMS). They discovered that they could "induce ionospheric holes" and began to experiment with holes made in the daytime, or at night over Millstone, Connecticut, and Arecibo, Puerto Rico. They experimented with the effects of "artificially induced ionospheric depletions on very low frequency wave lengths, on equatorial plasma instabilities, and on low frequency radio astronomical observations over Roberval, Quebec, Kwajelein, in the Marshall Islands and Hobart, Tasmania" (Advanced Space Research, Vo1.8, No. 1, 1988).

    Innovative Shuttle Experiments (1985)

    An innovative use of the Space Shuttle to perform space physics experiments in earth orbit was launched, using the OMS injections of gases to "cause a sudden depletion in the local plasma concentration, the creation of a so called ionospheric hole." This artificially induced plasma depletion can then be used to investigate other space phenomena, such as the growth of the plasma instabilities or the modification of radio propagation paths. The 47 second OMS burn of July 29, 1985, produced the largest and most long-lived ionospheric hole to date, dumping some 830 kg of exhaust into the ionosphere at sunset. A 6 second, 68 km OMS release above Connecticut in August 1985, produced an airglow which covered over 400,000 square km.

    During the 1980's, rocket launches globally numbered about 500 to 600 a year, peaking at 1500 in 1989. There were many more during the Gulf War. The Shuttle is the largest of the solid fuel rockets, with twin 45 meter boosters. All solid fuel rockets release large amounts of hydrochloric acid in their exhaust, each Shuttle flight injecting about 75 tons of ozone destroying chlorine into the stratosphere. Those launched since 1992 inject even more ozone-destroying chlorine, about 187 tons, into the stratosphere (which contains the ozone layer)

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