Space travel’s future looks all set to go green. NASA’s GPIM passed its 1st test, firing all its 5 thrusters successfully within a week of being launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy mission rocket, held in late June.
GPIM is propelled by a green fuel, which is hoped by NASA experts to be a successful replacement for hydrazine, which is widely used in many spacecraft, despite possessing a toxic nature, due to lack of alternatives. This new fuel has low toxins, therefore making it a better alternative for the environment as well as for humans who would have to interact with it while prepping for the launch.
The thrusters of the mission were fired up briefly for lowering the orbit of the spacecraft, which was a part of the mission’s checkout phase.
This helped the operators verify that all systems were functioning successfully without a hitch.
Christopher McLean from Ball Aerospace, a company which played a role in the spacecraft construction, stated that all operations went successfully with propulsion subsystems working exactly as per plan.
Over the course of the next few months, NASA will be aided by GPIM in understanding the fuel’s performance in space.
Both propulsion systems and the fuel will be tested by the mission, with 3 lowering burns being performed, which can shift the spacecraft into a low-altitude orbit from a higher one. If this is successful, this fuel could reduce space travel costs as well.
Named AF-M315E, this fuel has a 50% efficiency rate higher than hydrazine as per NASA. This propellant also has higher density, meaning having a less quantity of the green fuel can sustain the spacecraft for more time, with more fuel quantities being able to be stored compared to the previous fuel.
The GPIM mission success is a successful milestone for all engineers and scientists who have worked on this fuel for 10 years now. This serves as a precursor to spaceflight which may be more efficient and safer as well.
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