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News > AFOSR and NASA Launch First-Ever Test Rocket Fueled by Environmentally-Friendly, Safe Aluminum-Ice Propellant
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Air Force, NASA test launch environmentally friendly rocket fuel
The Air Force Office of Scientific Research and NASA successfully test launched the first-ever rocket powered with environmentally friendly Aluminum-Ice Propellant August 7 near Purdue University. The ALICE flight-vehicle pictured here assembled on its launch rail, consists of an all-carbon-fiber, minimum diameter high-power rocketry kit. (Credit: Dr. Steven F. Son, Purdue University)
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AFOSR and NASA Launch First-Ever Test Rocket Fueled by Environmentally-Friendly, Safe Aluminum-Ice Propellant

Posted 8/20/2009   Updated 8/21/2009 Email story   Print story


by Maria Callier
Air Force Office of Scientific Research

8/20/2009 - ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and NASA recently announced the launch of an environmentally-friendly, safe propellant comprised of aluminum powder and water ice (ALICE).

"By funding this collaborative research with NASA, Purdue and The
Pennsylvania State University, AFOSR continues to promote basic research
breakthroughs for the future of the Air Force", said Dr. Brendan Godfrey,
director, AFOSR.

Earlier this month, the collaborative team, Drs. Steven F. Son and Tim Pourpoint of Purdue, Rich Yetter and Grant Risha of Penn State, Vigor Yang of Georgia Tech, Harold Bell and Frank Bauer of NASA, and Mitat Birkan and Thomas Russell of AFOSR watched as the rocket soared high into the sky, to 1300 feet near Purdue University.

Son said the success of the flight can be attributed to "A sustained collaborative research effort on the fundamentals of the combustion of nanoscale aluminum and water over the last few years."

"This collaboration has been an opportunity for graduate students to work on an environmentally-friendly propellant that can be used for flight on Earth and used in long distance space missions," said NASA Chief Engineer Mike Ryschkewitsch at NASA Headquarters in Washington.  "These sorts of  university-led experimental projects encourage a new generation of aerospace engineers to think outside of the box and look at new ways for NASA to meet our exploration goals."

ALICE is generating excitement among the researchers because it has the potential to replace some liquid or solid propellants. It is a promising propellant energetically. Theoretically, when it is optimized, it could have a higher performance than a conventional propellant.

Son noted, "The ALICE propellant can be improved with the addition of oxidizers and become a potential solid rocket propellant on Earth. Away from this planet, on the Moon or Mars, ALICE can be manufactured in those locations instead of being transported at a large cost."

9/9/2009 10:55:46 PM ET
H2O2 is not exactly a new idea. Anyway what is the ISP and how does it vary with formulation
William Koldewyn, Dammeron Valley UT
8/23/2009 12:46:53 PM ET
Powdered metals have been used in the making of fireworks for centuries. Using hydrogen peroxide instead of water can make the mixture much more potent. By changing the strength of theperoxide from three percent... off the shelf- and up we can govern the strength of thrust. Yes steam is a powerful exhaust.
Harold, Chicago Illinois
8/22/2009 6:37:55 PM ET
Interesting. What is the Specific Impulse of Aluminum-Ice propellant Does it have the potential for orbital maneuvering Such as a reaction control system
M.Peter Selman, California
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