In a bid to go green by replacing the toxic propellant fuel hydrazine with an environment friendly propellant, NASA has chosen a team with Ball Aerospace & Technologies as a frontrunner to demonstrate a green propellant alternative that does not have an adverse effect on the environment and reduces the cost and complexity of space launches.
Hydrazine fuel has penetrated the space research arena owing to its efficiency and storage life. However, it is not just toxic but is also highly corrosive. Green propellants can be solid or liquid and mono-propellant (obtained from single fuel source) or bi-propellant (two fuel sources) or hybrids which are characterized by safer operating conditions and lesser environmental impact in comparison to existing fuels.
Ball will work in conjunction with co-investigators from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, the Aerojet Corporation in Redmond, Washington, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at the Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico and NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to develop and fly the Green Propellant Infusion Mission in three years.
The mission will be supported by a US $45 million grant from the Space Technology Program and some shared contribution from the co-investigators. The demonstration will address the gap between laboratory success of a technology and its incorporation in an actual operational mission.