Water-Propelled Satellite Developed For Moon Exploration

By Rodney Rafols , Sep 16, 2016 03:00 AM EDT

A new water-propelled satellite might soon find its way to the Moon. The satellite is being developed by a team from Cornell University headed by Mason Peck, a former senior official at NASA and associate professor of mechanical and space engineering.

The team from Cornell University is the Cislunar Explorers who have joined NASA's competition called CubeQuest. The top winners of the competition would have their work included in NASA's Space Launch System in 2018, according to the Cornell Daily Sun. The Space Launch System would be the first manned space flight by NASA since the space shuttle program.

In the program, there would be secondary payload ring, as explained by Kyle Doyle, one of the members of the Cornell team. In the secondary payload ring an experimental spacecraft could be included in it. CubeQuest is a series of four ground tournaments. In the tournaments, NASA would inspect the progress of the teams participating.

The Cislunar Explorers are making a satellite for the contest that is no bigger than that of a cereal box, as Science Daily reports. What makes the project interesting is that it would be propelled using only water. As of now, the Cislunar Explorers are in Phase 3 of the CubeQuest challenge.

The goal is not to only have the satellite orbit the moon, but then to show that water can be used as fuel to travel in space, as Peck has explained. That is the goal that the Cornell team hopes to show in the CubeQuest challenge.

Some of the other goals that they hope to achieve is to use resources in space and be not too reliant on Earth-bound technologies. This is one of the goals that Peck has been working on for years.

The satellite that's being developed is made of two L-shaped satellites that would split and go towards the Moon's atmosphere. In order to move towards the Moon, the two will spin in order to create angular momentum. Water stored at the bottom of the tanks in it would be electrolyzed with help from the Sun. This will give the two satellites enough bursts of energy of 30 minutes to an hour.

The satellite itself is light, made mostly of aluminum apart from a titanium 3-D piece. Peck has said that the technology that his team is using can be accessible to anybody. He has said that such ventures could be viable if developed in the right way.

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