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Sustainable spacecraft and eco-friendly rocket fuel: The future of space exploration

The recent advancements in space technology have marked a significant shift towards sustainability and reusability, as exemplified by Sierra Space‘s Dream Chaser and Interstellar Technologies Inc.’s experiments with alternative rocket fuels.

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser: A New Era of Spaceplanes

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, currently undergoing its final testing phase at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility, epitomizes the latest in reusable space technology. This spaceplane, reminiscent of NASA’s retired shuttle program, is poised to play a vital role in resupplying the International Space Station (ISS). Designed to launch atop a rocket and land on conventional runways, Dream Chaser offers a unique blend of versatility and durability, planned for a minimum of 15 missions.

The spacecraft’s design, an adaptation of NASA’s Langley Research Center’s HL-20, is augmented with the Shooting Star module. This module serves the dual purpose of delivering and disposing of cargo to the ISS, albeit as a single-use component. Dream Chaser’s arrival on the space logistics scene alongside SpaceX and Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital ATK) signifies an increasing reliance on commercial partnerships for space operations.

Interstellar Technologies: Revolutionizing Rocket Fuel

On another front, Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies Inc. is breaking ground with its ZERO rocket engine. This engine, powered by liquid biomethane derived from cow dung, successfully completed a 10-second static fire test. The successful test of this high-efficiency, low-cost combustion chamber signals a shift towards more sustainable fuel sources in rocketry, potentially reducing the environmental impact of space launches.

While ZERO’s current capabilities are suited for small satellite launches into low-Earth orbit, its future potential and environmental benefits are noteworthy. In contrast to traditional rocket fuels, which leave persistent black soot in the upper atmosphere, biomethane offers a cleaner alternative, potentially mitigating ozone layer damage and global warming effects.

These developments represent a broader trend in space exploration, where sustainability and reusability are becoming paramount. Dream Chaser’s reusability and ZERO’s eco-friendly fuel approach indicate a growing consciousness within the space industry towards minimizing environmental impacts while pushing the boundaries of space exploration.

As these technologies evolve, they not only offer practical solutions for current space endeavors but also pave the way for future missions. Whether it’s resupplying the ISS or launching satellites, the integration of sustainability in space technology signals a responsible and innovative approach to exploring the final frontier.

Bilgesu Erdem
Bilgesu Erdem
Bilgesu graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Communication, Department of Radio, Television and Cinema. After working as a reporter for various television channels and a newspaper, Bilgesu is currently working as a content editor at Newslinker. She loves technology and animals.

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