A Steam-Powered Spacecraft Hold The Key For Exploring Solar System?

Editorials News | Feb-18-2019

A Steam-Powered Spacecraft Hold The Key For Exploring Solar System?

Over 19,000 known asteroids are carrying wealth of resources and are packed with elements like platinum, gold, silver and palladium untouched riches locked safely inside celestial treasure chests.

Ryugu, is a half-mile wide asteroid that poses a potential risk to Earth it is estimated to contain $83 billion worth of nickel, iron, cobalt and nitrogen. The larger but less threatening Anteros is thought to have some billions of worth of magnesium silicate, iron and aluminum beneath its surface.

A burgeoning industry aims to mine these asteroids like space prospectors. Some want elements that are valuable on Earth others have their eyes set on resources that will be necessary to off-world colonies, arguably the most valuable resource in space is Water.

A microwave-sized spacecraft that is capable of using steam as a propellent may help the miner’s survey potential dig sites and identify the space rocks for mining missions.

The World Is Not Enough (WINE) spacecraft developed through a partnership between the Honeybee Robotics and University of Central Florida’s Planetary Science Group is equipped with deployable solar panels for gathering energy and drill into icy regolith and extract water vapor.

Why Water?

Water will be the key to future space colonies. For the sake of cost and self-sustainability, colonies will likely be established near water sources on planetary bodies. When it comes to asteroid mining water is the low hanging fruit.

UCF planetary research scientist Phil Metzger and his students over the past three years have developed and refined technologies and calculations that make WINE work.

Massless Exploration

WINE is not the only spacecraft using water to get around. Researchers at Cornell University, Arizona State University and some others are developing similar spacecraft for exploring our solar system affordably and efficiently.

Creating steam has the benefits of being low-tech and it must be stored at a really high temperature or highly pressured. Both these options require the spacecraft to carry more mass.

Peck has turned to electrolysis, the process which splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. The goal is here near massless exploration and carry as little as possible.

WINE spacecraft could be assembled and launched within two years, according to Zacny and it may cost as little as few hundred thousand dollars. Zacny sees a future in which hundreds of WINE spacecraft will be launched simultaneously, before traveling independently to different asteroids and planetary bodies.

By: Aishwarya Sharma

Content: https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/steam-powered-spacecraft-university-central-florida/


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