The Polish Aviation Institute conducted an extended test launch of a new satellite thruster. Scientists are looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to the hydrazine-based engines used today.
Today hydrazine is the most common fuel used in engines on board satellites. However, it is not only high-energy in nature, but also toxic. It is also corrosive and hazardous to handle and store.
ESA (European Space Agency) has initiated the GRACE project – Green Liquid Apogee Engine – for future spacecraft. The goal is to evaluate more environmentally friendly engine options. The tests ended with a 60-second engine start.
The GRACE project experts evaluated the various options and made a conclusion. For the best efficiency of a two-component fuel, it is best to use high quality peroxide, HTP, as an oxidizing agent. This is a much cleaner version of the same chemical used to bleach hair. With the help of a catalyst, it is split into oxygen, water vapor, and also into TMPDA (N, N, N ‘, N’-tetramethyl-1,3-diaminopropane). It is used as fuel.
It was almost entirely a Polish project supported by the ESA Polish Industry Incentive program.