Luda early 2007, the Mojave Desert (Mojave) lit up the dazzling flame emanating from the nozzle of the rocket engine of a supernova. At first glance it looked like a routine test of the rocket engine, yet it was different. While the majority of missiles NASA used liquid oxygen and hydrogen, or solid chemical reagents used in a new engine methane.
The base engine developed by the company XCOR Aerospace, and it is not ready for use in space flight, but if the technology will pay off, rocket motors of this type will be the key to interplanetary flight and exploration of deep space.
Video: Test methane engine in the Mojave Desert
Large amounts of methane (CH4), the main element of natural gas, can be found almost everywhere in the solar system. It can produce on Mars, Titan, Jupiter and many other planets and moons. Missiles, leaving the Earth will not have to carry with it a large amount of fuel: you can refuel and on arrival.
Surprisingly, this flammable gas had never been used as a rocket fuel. Only now, a group of scientists and engineers from different research centers are developing a liquid oxygen-methane engines of the future, to facilitate the process of space exploration and enable interplanetary flights.
"The development of such engines is sponsoring the development of technologies NASA (NASA’s Exploration Technology Development Program). Results show how important it can be a study of new technologies for future space science missions - Mark Klem, manager of the Glenn Research Center (Mark D. Klem, Glenn Research Center) - At methane so many advantages. question is, why do we still have not finish thinking? "
Let’s estimate. Liquid hydrogen fuel used in spacecraft must be kept at a temperature of -252.9 degrees Celsius - just 20 degrees above absolute zero! Liquid methane, in turn, can be stored at higher temperatures (-161.6