July 20, 2010 Engineers at the University of Hertfordshire are working on a dual fuel rocket which could provide technology suitable for a rocket for Mars and will have a negative carbon footprint.
Eur Ing Ray Wilkinson and MSc student Sathyakumar Sharma from the University of Salford are using their experience of hybrid fuels and Sathyakumar's part-time experience at the Indian Space-Research Organisation to develop a rocket which will be fuelled by a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and aluminium.
The rocket will take CO2 and turn it into carbon, which is the opposite of what most existing rockets do.
The researchers plan to complete the technology demonstrator by September this year when they should have a rocket motor which uses fine aluminium powder and therefore ignites easily and the decision to mix this with CO2 means that it if it did provide the basis for a rocket suitable for a mission to Mars, it could refuel from the atmosphere on the planet.
"The idea is that a Mars rocket (not this one) could save a lot of cost and mass by not taking with it the propellants it needs for its return flight. One method of doing this is to use an easily available Martian resource, carbon dioxide, as a propellant, and burn it with aluminium or magnesium powder," said Eur Ing Wilkinson. "However, this is new technology so research needs to be done to prove it will work and to develop it fully. A test has been done in the laboratory already in Purdue University, USA, but we aim to be the first in the world to build a flight-capable motor, and to demonstrate the feasibility with a low-altitude flight (maybe a mile high) of a small rocket."
A video of this concept is available on You Tube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICPcm9jvoks
Last year, Eur Ing Wilkinson and a student team also developed a rocket which was powered by toffee and a sled which has reached over 1200 miles per hour in about a third of a second.
Rocketry started at the University of Hertfordshire in October 2005. From a fresh start, the group has progressed quickly from model rockets into high-power rocketry. They have built a number of rockets, and have several being built at the moment.
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