NASA, AFOSR Test Environmentally-Friendly Rocket Propellant

Fri Aug 21, 2009 1:00pm EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA and the Air Force Office
of Scientific Research, or AFOSR, have successfully launched a small rocket
using an environmentally-friendly, safe propellant comprised of aluminum
powder and water ice, called ALICE.

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"This collaboration has been an opportunity for graduate students to work on
an environmentally-friendly propellant that can be used for flight on Earth
and used in long distance space missions," said NASA Chief Engineer Mike
Ryschkewitsch at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These sorts of
university-led experimental projects encourage a new generation of aerospace
engineers to think outside of the box and look at new ways for NASA to meet
our exploration goals."

Using ALICE as fuel, a nine-foot rocket soared to a height of 1,300 feet over
Purdue University's Scholer farms in Indiana earlier this month. ALICE is
generating excitement among researchers because this energetic propellant has
the potential to replace some liquid or solid propellants. When it is
optimized, it could have a higher performance than conventional propellants.

"By funding this collaborative research with NASA, Purdue University and the
Pennsylvania State University, AFOSR continues to promote basic research
breakthroughs for the future of the Air Force," said Dr. Brendan Godfrey,
director of AFOSR.

ALICE has the consistency of toothpaste when made. It can be fit into molds
and then cooled to -30 C 24 hours before flight. The propellant has a high
burn rate and achieved a maximum thrust of 650 pounds during this test.

"A sustained collaborative research effort on the fundamentals of the
combustion of nanoscale aluminum and water over the last few years led to the
success of this flight," said Dr. Steven F. Son, a research team member from
Purdue. "ALICE can be improved with the addition of oxidizers and become a
potential solid rocket propellant on Earth. Theoretically, ALICE can be
manufactured in distant places like the moon or Mars, instead of being
transported to distant locations at high cost."

For more information about the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, visit:

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


David E. Steitz of NASA Headquarters, Washington, +1-202-358-1730,; or Maria Callier of the Air Force Office of Scientific
Research, Arlington, Va., +1-703-696-7308,
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