first_img Hubble Space Telescope Captures Star’s Eerie Gaseous GlowMoon Glows Brighter Than Sun in NASA Fermi’s Vibrant Images A non-toxic, rosé-colored liquid could fuel the future of space travel.NASA will test the high-performance “green” material, as well as a compatible propulsion system, in space this month with the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), set to launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.Developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the propellant blends hydroxyl ammonium nitrate with an oxidizer, allowing it to burn and creating an alternative to hydrazine, commonly used in modern spacecraft.While shuttles love hydrazine (it was first employed as a component in rocket fuels during World War II), the inorganic compound is highly toxic to humans.Exposure can cause everything from skin irritation or temporary blindness to seizures or coma, not to mention organ damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Handling the clear liquid requires strict safety precautions: protective suits, thick rubber gloves, oxygen tanks.So it makes sense that NASA would want to replace it with something a bit more user friendly.GPIM, the agency said, promises fewer handling restrictions, helping to reduce preparation time before launch.“Spacecraft could be fueled during manufacturing, simplifying processing at the launch facility, resulting in cost savings,” according to Christopher McLean, principal investigator for GPIM at Ball Aerospace, which leads this technology demonstration mission.Denser than hydrazine, this new green propellant offers nearly 50 percent better performance (the equivalent of getting 50 percent more miles per gallon on your car). That means spacecraft can travel farther and operate longer with less fuel onboard.The technology, NASA said, is ideal for small- and cube-satellite builders, who have modest budgets and limited capacity; it also has a place among large spacecraft, like the GPIM.Moving forward, Redmond-based manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to develop a range of other thrust-level propulsion systems to utilize high-performance green propellant.“We see interest in using green propellant across the space industry,” Fred Wilson, director of business development for Aerojet, said in a statement. “The trend is towards smaller and smaller satellites, to do more mission in a small package.”There is potential for this technology to be used for a variety of lunar missions within NASA’s new Artemis program, the agency said. But first, it must be tested in space.More on Geek.com:Air-Fueled Satellites Developed by European Space AgencyNASA’s Webb Telescope One Step Closer to CompletionNASA to Open International Space Station to Tourists from 2020 Stay on targetlast_img read more