Scientists are planning to develop new next-generation rocket engines that will help getting mass to Mars and Moon.
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) has been awarded a 5 million dollars grant from NASA to develop rocket engines using liquid methane. The methane-based rocket technology would be used for in-space propulsion and ascent and descent engines for Mars and lunar landers.
Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering Ahsan Choudhuri said that liquid methane, a new form of green propellant, was a promising fuel for spacecraft.
The research would be led by UTEP’s NASA-funded Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR).
The development of methane rocket engines had been identified as a critically enabling technology in the NASA Space Technology Roadmap.
Human-Mars mission architectures pointed to liquid oxygen-liquid methane (LO2/CH4) economy utilizing common reactants, created from scavenging the atmosphere and land via In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). Due to the very high cost of getting mass to Mars, it was critical that the destination vehicles (e.g. landers) be very mass and volume efficient.