Fuel Station in Space to be Reality?
By Parismita Goswami | March 8, 2014 8:00 PM EST
Scientists have come forward with a plan to install fuel depots at Lagrange- regions in space between the Earth, moon and sun where gravitational equilibrium is maintained.
Fuel Station in Space to be Reality?
The proposal has been made by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Objects at Lagrange remain at the same place, keeping the same relative position with regards to the Earth and the moon. This will help the crew members in space missions to land at the fuel depot located somewhere between the Earth and the moon and load extra rocket fuel before landing on the moon.
The scientists have also proposed the idea of stock piling. The spacecrafts on their moon mission would carry emergency propellant and drop the tank at a station while returning to the Earth if not required. Eventually, the depot will be filled with large fuel supply. This will help launch huge lunar mission with less fuel supply.
Instead, it can halt at the depot to gather stockpiled propellant before landing on the lunar surface. For the past few decades, scientists have put forward various designs. But most of them require huge monetary investments. However, the MIT team designs were cost-efficient. Both designs have advantage as each lunar mission carries a supply of contingency propellant. There may be cases when the backup fuel remains unused and is either left on the lunar surface or burnt up while the crew returns to the earth.
"Whatever rockets you use, you'd like to take full advantage of your lifting capacity. Most of what we launch from the Earth is propellant. So whatever you can save, there's that much more payload you can take with you," TOI quoted Jeffrey Hoffman, department of aeronautics and astronautics, MIT as saying.
The main disadvantage of depot designs include maintaining depots within the Lagrange point and avoiding a phenomenon called boil-off -- a condition where fuel that's not kept at cold temperatures can boil away.
(Edited by: Gopi Chandra Kharel)
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