With the successful launch of Artemis I behind it, NASA has been doubling down on efforts to make deep space travel – and it’s reported future trips to the Moon and Mars – easier to achieve. We’ve already reported on why the Space Launch System used for the Artemis mission isn’t sustainable, but now NASA has tested a new propulsion tech that could cut down on the fuel needed for those missions.
The new tech is called a rotating detonation rocket engine, or RDRE. This propulsion system uses detonations to generate thrust. To do this, the tech relies on the accelerating of a supersonic exothermic front, which similarly creates thrust to the way a shockwave travels through the atmosphere after an explosion, which could make deep space travel easier to build for.
The point of the design is to use less fuel while also providing more thrust than the current propulsion systems that NASA and other rocket-building companies rely on. Using less fuel makes it easier to prepare these spacecraft for deep space travel, as you can mete out smaller amounts of fuel that won’t weigh down the rocket when it is lifting off.
With the success of this test, NASA is now looking at building a working, fully reusable 10,00-pound RDRE that it can then compare to the performance of traditional liquid rocket engines – like those used in the Space Launch System. If those tests prove successful, too, and the comparisons play out well, it could revolutionize how we think about deep space travel in the future.
This isn’t the only way that NASA is looking at revolutionizing deep space travel. The space agency is reportedly looking into nuclear-powered spacecraft, which would allow spacecraft to travel further distances without needing liquid fuel. It would also make the journey to Mars significantly shorter, from six months to just 45 days.