US space agency NASA announcedabout the beginning of cooperation with ten new companies, with which they will be engaged in the development of new space technologies. Perhaps the most interesting among these agreements is NASA's cooperation with the private space company SpaceX. According to sources, together with the brainchild of Ilona Mask, the state space agency will develop technologies for refueling spacecraft right in space.
SpaceX with our Research CenterGlenn and the Marshall Research Center will be engaged in the creation of new technologies necessary for the delivery of rocket fuel to near-earth orbit. For SpaceX itself, this will be a very important step in the development of their Starship spacecraft, says a NASA news release.
NASA company SpaceX commented on without hiding enthusiasm:
“We believe that SpaceX rockets and spacecraft, including Falcon Heavy and Starship, can become an integral part of NASA’s lunar and Martian plans,” the company noted.
Why NASA and SpaceX refueling in space?
It's all about the desire of both parties to master the distantspace. NASA, in the framework of the new lunar program, Artemis is going to return to the Earth satellite and establish a scientific ground and orbital base there with the permanent residence of astronauts.
By the way, the head of SpaceX Ilon Musk has previously“Stuttered” on the topic that he would like his company to take direct part in building the NASA base on the moon. In addition, SpaceX itself plans in the future to use its Starship spacecraft for flights to the Moon and Mars, with the prospect of establishing there a permanent human settlement.
See also: NASA will create a lunar landing module for the Artemis mission together with SpaceX and Blue Origin
NASA after the moon also wants to fly to Mars. The Earth satellite for the agency will become a kind of training ground for new technologies that will be used to fly into deeper space.
How will fueling take place in space?
The presence of gas stations in Earth orbitwill allow to simplify and reduce the price of space launches from the Earth. It should be recalled that the larger and heavier the rocket and the ship with the payload, the more expensive it is to launch. With a gas station in orbit, launch vehicles and spacecraft will not have to be refueled on the ground. Fuel will be refueled only to the extent necessary for launching the rocket with the spacecraft into Earth orbit. After going into orbit, the ship will be refueled with rocket fuel at a space filling station, and then continue its mission to deep space. From an economic point of view, this approach will be cheaper.
It will look something like this: launching from Earth - refueling in orbit - flying to Mars - refueling using local resources - returning to Earth
It is assumed that for the return flight to Earthfuel will be used to fuel the rocket, which will be produced from the same useful Martian and lunar resources. Of these, it will be possible to produce oxygen, water, methane and hydrogen, which will be used to produce rocket fuel.
Is it difficult to build a gas station in space?
Highly. According to one of the chief engineers of SpaceX, Paul Wooster, for the company the solution of this problem will become one of the most complex technological problems. But to find the answer to it is necessary, because without this, the company will not be able to realize its ambitious plans associated with Mars.
SpaceX has even calculated that for implementationOne mission to the Red Planet will need to carry out five "refueling" conclusions of the Starship ships into Earth orbit with hundreds of tons of new rocket fuel as the main payload.
See also: SpaceX successfully tested a prototype of a spacecraft for flights to Mars
In the past, NASA has already conducted researchaimed at understanding how to deliver, as well as to store rocket fuel based on liquid oxygen, hydrogen and methane and to make refueling of spacecraft directly in the conditions of the space environment. As it turned out, it is very difficult to work with all these substances. In the conditions of the space environment, they can evaporate. For example, it is noted that atoms of the same hydrogen can evaporate without problems even through the metal shell of the fuel tank.
NASA is confident that cooperation with private companies will overcome all the technological difficulties that stand in the way of flights to the Moon and Mars.
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