This Month in Space – July 2019

GPIM (Green Propellant Infusion Mission)

Green fuel is not only for terrestrial use. It should be looked into for extra-terrestrial use also. This is a growing field of research in rocket fuel. Before talking about green fuel, let’s talk about something that is not green. Hydrazine. 

Hydrazine (N2H4) is a traditional rocket fuel. Mixed with dinitrogen tetroxide, N2O4, it makes a hypergolic fuel. Isp of 339s. Very energy dense compound with tendency to explode if not careful. Hydrazine has one very big short coming. It is highly toxic. Handling Hydrazine has to be done with extreme care. This builds up cost overtime. Therefore, despite being a good rocket fuel, it is not always sought after. 

Of course, very rocket fuel has its advantages and disadvantages. LOX & LH combo for example, relatively cheap. Good performance figures. But takes too much space & the rocket has to be fueled at the last minute. 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could pump in some gasoline make the rocket go on and on. Having energy dense fuel. Storing as long as you want in the rocket hanger. Just like your car!

Unfortunately, what we can do with our car, doesn’t work for rockets. That’s brings us to green fuel. 

Researcher at Bell Aerospace and Technologies Corp. are working on a Safer, faster and cheaper rocket fuel. Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate or AF-M315E. 45% denser than hydrazine. Has lower freezing point. Not toxic as hydrazine. As a part of STP-2 mission, the researcher flew and tested thruster fueled by this AF-M315E. Initial news release say the tests went well.

What should all take away from this, just because something works, doesn’t mean we can’t make it better. For me personally, I’ll be keeping an eye for more news related with Green Rocket Fuel.

Galileo is down

On July 12th all Galileo navigation satellites were reported non-operational. All 22 of them. The outage was caused by some ground issue.  As of aug 18, a full month later, only 4 Galileo satellites are non-operational. 

It is to be noted, Galileo satellites are still in testing phase. They have not been declared fully operational yet. So we have nothing to worry about. But it is a good reminder, how dependent our modern life is on satellites. And how much effort goes into building these systems and keep them functional.


India has launched it Chandrayan-2 mission on 22nd July . This 145 MUSD mission aims to be the first rover to reach the south pole of the moon. 

The news caught my eye, especially because this is a completely homegrown mission. It shows how capable Indian technology has become. In the course of time, these technology will flow into other sectors and India is sure to reap benefits.

Too many managers

I don’t know how to describe this. Some may see this as a funny news, some as tragedy. For me, I’m left speechless. 

Team Olik, a 4 person team, won the NASA Apps 2018 Competition. It’s a crazy story, I encourage people to read the news articles. I won’t go into the details. Basically their, Visa was denied. They couldn’t be where they needed to be. Instead, some other people went on to USA Kennedy Space Center instead of them. 

This is incredibly unfortunate and hilarious. Unfortunate because Team Olik had the right reasons to be given US visa and attend the ceremony for their hard earned success. Funny because other 12 Govt. official didn’t cancel their trip. They went on ahead to “Thank NASA”. 

This whole event is just stupid.

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