Photo: SpaceX
Photo: SpaceX

Science

Space Travel: NASA Ropes In Elon Musk's SpaceX To Develop Tech To Refuel Ships In Space

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Published:

Hack:

  • NASA has roped in many international space agencies including Elon Musk's SpaceX to create solutions around refueling ships in space
  • SpaceX will be working with the Glenn Research Center and Marshall Space Flight Center to develop new technology which will enable to get propellent depot into the orbit
  • According to the National Space Society(NSS),  Cryogenic propellant depots can rightly be called “a gas station in space.”

In a bid to end their refueling woes, NASA has roped in many international space agencies including Elon Musk's SpaceX to create solutions around refueling ships in space, according to international news reports.

Reports further state that SpaceX will be working with the Glenn Research Center and Marshall Space Flight Center to help develop new technology which will enable to get propellent depot into the orbit, thus solving the issue of in-space refueling. 

NASA predicts that this refueling technology could potentially assist crewed missions to Mars and beyond.

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What is a propellent depot?

According to the National Space Society(NSS),  Cryogenic propellant depots can rightly be called “a gas station in space.” Just like gas stations extend the range of one's cars, orbital propellant depots would extend the range of one's rockets.

NSS states that currently, propellants usually take up 2/3 or more of their total mass. Hence for a payload to go further than the Earth's orbit, that payload has to contain another smaller rocket and a final payload. "Once in orbit, the first rocket’s upper stage is usually “out of gas” and since there are no gas stations in orbit right now," states NSS.

All these problems can be solved if one stage of the rocket could be refueled in orbit, thus enabling its reuse.

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Nuclear thermal rocket?

Previously on July 25, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had suggested that 'Nuclear thermal rockets would be a great area of research for NASA', after the successful test of his Starhopper rocket. He had highlighted that this alternative to rocket fuel could unlock faster travel times as he wishes to embark on his dream to colonize Mars.   

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Meanwhile, ahead of NASA's Artemis mission that is supposed land to human astronauts on the moon, NASA has announced its partnership with the several U.S based companies including SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to take space exploration technology to a whole new level. NASA is already working on its plans to establish a permanent human presence in space.

 

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