Scientists have come up with a new way of keeping spacecraft in space forever by powering them with steam instead of fuel.
Funded by NASA, researchers from University of Central Florida have come up with a new way to build up a probe powered by steal and can never run out of fuel, hence staying up in space infinitely.
Named as the ‘World Is Not Enough’ (WINE), the craft mines water from its current location and turns it into steam. The steam then helps it to propel itself to a new destination.
“We could potentially use this technology to hop on the Moon, Ceres, Europa, Titan, Pluto, and the poles of Mercury, asteroids – anywhere there is water and sufficiently low gravity,” said researcher Phil Metzger.
The spacecraft uses deployable solar panels to get adequate energy for mining and making steam. It could also use small radiosotopic decay units for extending the potential reach of these planetary hoppers to Pluto and other locations far from the sun.
The scientists worked by a robotics firm Honeybee Robotics which made up the WINE spacecraft prototype. As per Honeybee Robotics’ vice president Kris Zacny, spacecrafts like WINE have the potential to ‘change how we explore the universe’.
At present, the interplanetary missions stop exploring as soon as the spacecraft runs out of propellant. Metzger explained, “Each time we lose our tremendous investment in time and money that we spent building and sending the spacecraft to its target.
“WINE was designed to never run out of propellant so exploration will be less expensive. It also allows us to explore in a shorter amount of time, since we don’t have to wait for years as a new spacecraft travels from Earth each time.”