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Home / Science / Steam-propelled spacecraft could explore asteroids ‘forever’, say scientists

Steam-propelled spacecraft could explore asteroids ‘forever’, say scientists



A steam powered spacecraft was created that one day could push itself from an asteroid to an asteroid, extracting water while feeding its journey.

Scientists say their microwave device could theoretically travel in space "forever", relying on an endless supply of fuel to propel its rockets.

The prototype of NASA, the World Is Not Enough (WINE), was developed by scientists in collaboration with a California-based robotics company.


Planetary researcher Phil Metzger of the Central University of Florida worked on computer modeling that allowed Honeybee Robotics to create the device.

The first tests of the aircraft were conducted in the laboratory with simulated asteroid material at the end of December.

"It's fantastic," said dr. Metzger.

"WINE successfully extracted the ground, made rocket propellant and launched on a jet of steam extracted from the simulant.

" We could potentially use this technology to jump on the Moon, Ceres, Europe, Titan, Pluto , the poles of Mercury, asteroids – wherever there is water and gravity sufficiently low. "

The WINE craft prototype (University of Central Florida)

Kris Zacny, vice president of Honeybee Robotics, said that this new breed of spacecraft has "the potential to change the way we explore the universe".

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Solar panels can be used to provide the energy to extract and produce steam, which can then be used to push the vessel from the surface of a planet or an asteroid in space.

Alternatively, if he was working farther away from the Sun – for example on Pluto – he could use radioactive material on board gradually decaying to provide energy.

Currently, missions to other planets must stop when the spacecraft runs out of the propellant, which means the loss of an enormous amount of time and money.


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The WINE project was supported by NASA's technology transfer program for small businesses, which aims to foster links between universities and businesses.

Honeybee Robotics specializes in the creation of space drilling tools and systems for life research on other planets.

The WINE project includes the company's Spider water extraction system, designed to perforate the surface of the asteroids and extract samples of frozen soil that can be dry-sucked.


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