NASA is offering awards of up to $50m to incentivise the creation of a green fuel to power future rocket launches.
NASA and commercial launch companies currently use hydrazine fuel propellant. However, the propellant is highly toxic, as well as being corrosive. As such, the processing time before the launch of a satellite is lengthy, as many safety procedures must be implemented when dealing with the dangerous fuel.
Hydrazine has the advantages of being efficient and capable of being stored for lengthy periods of time, however NASA is seeking to replace the propellant with something better.
NASA has issued a call for a high performance propellant that will be more beneficial to the environment, and is willing to make several awards for advancing this area. Awards of up to $50 million dollars each will be made, with the proposal deadline being 30 April 2012.
A green propellant will have many advantages, as reducing the processing time will also reduce the cost of rocket launches. In addition there will be fewer operational hazards and less environmental hazards and pollutants.
Before a new propellant can be used on a mission, it must first be tested by the Technology Demonstration Missions Program to ensure that it is viable.
"High performance green propulsion has the potential to significantly change how we travel in space," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program.