After putting out a call for technology demonstration proposals for non-toxic “green” propellant alternatives to highly-toxic hydrazine earlier this year, NASA has selected a mission proposed by a team led by Boulder, Colorado-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation. The mission, which is intended to bridge the gap between technology development and use of green propellant, is expected to be developed and flown in around three years, with NASA providing US$45 million and additional funds provided by the mission co-investigators.
The selection of the Green Propellant Infusion Mission proposal will see Ball and co-investigators from the Aerojet Corporation in Redmond, Washington, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at the Kirkland Air Force Base, NASA's Glenn Research and Kennedy Space Centers tasked with developing and flying a “high performance green propellant, demonstrating and characterizing in space the functionality of the integrated propulsion system."
Although the specifics have not yet been revealed, the green propellant can be a liquid, solid, mono-propellant, which uses one fuel source, a bi-propellant, which uses two, or a hybrid. However, it must be safer to handle and have lower environmental impact than currently used fuels.
"High performance green propellant has the potential to revolutionize how we travel to, from and in space," 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."
The Green Propellant Infusion Mission will be conducted as part of the Space Technology Program.