A steam powered spacecraft that could roam the sky ‘forever’ is being developed by Florida researchers.
Called ‘the World Is Not Enough’, the NASA funded prototype craft extracts water from asteroids or other planetary bodies to generate steam.
It then uses this to drive a rocket thruster and propel itself.
Researchers say it could be used to ‘hop’ across asteroids and planets.
‘We could potentially use this technology to hop on the Moon, Ceres, Europa, Titan, Pluto, the poles of Mercury, asteroids — anywhere there is water and sufficiently low gravity,’ said University of Central Florida planetary research scientist Phil Metzger.
The scientist worked with Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, which developed the World Is Not Enough spacecraft prototype.
The spacecraft lifted off for about a meter inside a vacuum chamber at Honeybee’s Pasadena facility.
‘It’s awesome,’ Metzger says of the demonstration.
‘WINE successfully mined the soil, made rocket propellant, and launched itself on a jet of steam extracted from the simulant.
The process works in a variety of scenarios depending on the gravity of each object, Metzger says.
The spacecraft uses deployable solar panels to get enough energy for mining and making steam, or it could use small radiosotopic decay units to extend the potential reach of these planetary hoppers to Pluto and other locations far from the sun.