- A UK startup with big goals for sustainable space exploration has successfully tested a rocket engine fuelled in part by plastic garbage.
- Pulsar Fusion is entering the race with a “green” rocket that employs a hybrid fuel made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and nitrous oxide oxidizer.
- The corporation claims that potential uses for the “green” rocket engine include sending people and satellites into space, but its ambition for space exploration does not stop there.
Pulsar Fusion aims for sustainable space-exploration
A UK startup with big goals for sustainable space exploration has successfully tested a rocket engine fuelled in part by plastic garbage. The hybrid rocket engine developed by Pulsar Fusion is part of an ambitious trip that also includes the development of nuclear fusion technology for high-speed propulsion, which may cut travel durations to Mars in half.
The concept of using recovered plastic trash in hybrid rocket fuels has already been investigated. Virgin Galactic experimented with the notion in 2014, using a rocket-propelled by a fuel based on a family of thermoset polymers, but the project was quickly abandoned following a disastrous test flight.
Skyrora, a Scottish startup, is also working on such a technology, having successfully tested its Ecosene fuel manufactured from recycled plastic trash.
The “Green” Rocket
Pulsar Fusion is entering the race with a “green” rocket that employs a hybrid fuel made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and nitrous oxide oxidizer that is injected into the combustion chamber under regulated pressure through a control valve. HDPE is utilized in a variety of plastic items like bottles, pipelines, and cutting boards, providing several options to acquire and recycle this important component of the fuel.
Pulsar Fusion performed the first static tests of its hybrid rocket engine last week at the UK’s Ministry of Defence military site in Salisbury. According to the business, this produced the sort of supersonic shock diamonds that would be found in a high temperature, high mass flow rate rocket exhaust, resulting in a stunning, blazing plume. This week, it intends to follow up with a demonstration for interested clients.
Hybrid fuel can shorten trip to Mars
The corporation claims that potential uses for the “green” rocket engine include sending people and satellites into space, but its ambition for space exploration does not stop there, with plans to build and deploy high-speed nuclear fusion propulsion engines this decade. The goal of this technique is to reproduce the process that occurs within the Sun, where gravity forces combine with intense heat and pressure to smash nuclei into one other, releasing massive quantities of energy. Scientists have been working on this for decades using experimental reactors, and while some exciting advancements are being made, the technology is still several years away from being a practical source of energy.
As a result, Pulsar Fusion’s space goals appear to be somewhat lofty. It has been developing nuclear fusion technology for nine years, with the goal of using strong electromagnetics to turn the energy generated during fusion reactions into a sort of propulsion. This would not only eliminate the need for spacecraft to carry hefty fuel supplies but would also allow them to move at amazing speeds — fast enough, according to Pulsar Fusion, to reach Mars from Earth in half the time of today’s spacecraft.