Green Technologies pseudo satellite
[Via Satellite 12-23-13] After decades of uncontested use, hydrazine is being challenged by a new upcoming fuel in the spacecraft propulsion market. Together with Aerojet Rocketdyne, NASA and the U.S. Air Force, Ball Aerospace’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) is using 15 years of work to create a competitive satellite propellant called Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate (HAN) fuel/oxidizer blend, or AF-M315E.
This new propellant was developed mostly because of environmental concerns regarding hydrazine, pushing the need for a cleaner fuel. NASA’s GPIM mission, scheduled to launch as a secondary payload in 2015 onboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, will be the first space-based demonstration of the fuel.
“Historically its all been monomethylhydrazine (MMH or hydrazine) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) fuels for which a lot of the material characterizations, compatibility work and handling were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, ” Chris McLean, GPIM principle investigator at Ball Aerospace, told Via Satellite. “We haven’t had a real paradigm shift in space storable propellant since then.”
Hydrazine, being an extremely dangerous chemical, has been listed by the European Chemicals Agency on its Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern for Authorization. In 2008 the U.S. Navy destroyed an irreparable U.S. spy satellite (U.S 193) based on concerns that its hydrazine fuel storage would survive atmospheric reentry. Concern over the safety of hydrazine has been longstanding, but the reason AF-M315E has taken so long to produce is primarily due to difficulty making use of its operational temperature and catalyst agent.
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