Cryogenic Propellant Depots Design
Concepts and Risk Reduction Activities Future In-Space Operations (FISO) March 2, 2011 (30- pages, 4.5 megabytes)
NASA wants to focus on liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, the fuels that power the main engines of the space shuttles and commercial rockets. The challenge is finding ways to store and maintain the propellant, which requires extremely cold temperatures. Heat from solar flares or a rocket engine's exhaust could evaporate the fuel or cause the tanks to expand and even explode. So any demonstration must also successfully transfer the fuel to a docked spacecraft in a zero-gravity environment.
The technology could also provide a boost to the commercial space industry. NASA could purchase fuel in orbit from commercial companies which would operate refueling tankers or possibly even permanent depots. "We could create a small space economy in propellants and refueling," Moore said.
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