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Air Force & NASA Fire Off Green Rocket

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the one-of-these-days-alice dept.

NASA 157

coondoggie writes "NASA and the Air Force said today they had successfully launched a 9-ft. rocket 1,300 feet into the sky, powered by aluminum powder and water ice. This combination of fuel elements, referred to as ALICE, has the potential to replace some liquid or solid propellants. The technology is being developed at Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University. Aside from its environmental benefiits, ALICE has the advantage that it could be manufactured in far-away places, such as the moon or Mars, instead of being transported to distant horizons at great cost, researchers said."

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FIRST PRIST (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182085)

Dock digger smells funny cow fart.

Ethical question (0, Redundant)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182099)

If you could launch a rocket with pioneers and their supplies that would destroy the Earth, but ensure the survival of homo sapiens throughout the local galaxy, on multiple destination star systems, for the next million years, would that be OK?

Re:Ethical question (2, Insightful)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182121)

right, because aluminium is in such short supply, and the survival of the human race on earth depends on it.

Re:Ethical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182179)

Sure, the post was slightly OT, but at least on a tangent, of sorts. This reply was even more tangential to the topic and a complete non-sequitor as a reply.

Re:Ethical question (5, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182501)

aluminium

Oh dear lord, not this again.

  • The discoverer (Sir Humphry Davy) spelled it Aluminum.
  • Aluminum saves a syllable.
  • NASA, the subject of this article, spells it Aluminum.
  • IUPAC accepts the spelling Aluminum.
  • A-loo-mi-num has such a nice... woody quality about it, while Al-yoo-min-i-um is a nasty tinny sort of thing.

... Q.E.D.

Re:Ethical question (4, Funny)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182649)

I'm the founder of a world-wide organization whose aim it is to execute every person to have ever used the "aluminum" spelling. I'm very serious about this. You should be, too.

Re:Ethical question (2, Informative)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 4 years ago | (#29183675)

I agree ... its only the Yanks that think aluminum is a reasonable way to spell
it. Every other element they spell correctly.

Next, lets pick on the yanks for avoiding metric measurements ...

Re:Ethical question (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29184075)

execute every person to have ever used the "aluminum" spelling.

Man, sucks to be you... ;)

Re:Ethical question (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182711)

come on -- mods, take a Quaalude. This is not a troll, it's a joke. Joke's might not be funny, or they might, depends on who hears it (I like this one), but if you don't see the humor, that does make it a troll.

Re:Ethical question (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182769)

Ok, remove apostrophe in "Joke's" and and "not" between "does" and "make". I need an editor.

Re:Ethical question (0)

anagama (611277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182777)

Jeez! I'm going to bed.

Re:Ethical question (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182979)

Al-yoo-min-i-um is a nasty tinny sort of thing.

Not as bad as "newspaper" or "litterbin".

Re:Ethical question (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29183519)

Or Uranium or Helium or Lithium or just about all the other elements ending in -um

I grant that Davy omitted the second i, but people like regularity - especially in regular structures like the Periodic Table. The extra letter has been added, so far as it has, by popular demand,

Re:Ethical question (2, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29184067)

I grant that Davy omitted the second i, but people like regularity - especially in regular structures like the Periodic Table. The extra letter has been added, so far as it has, by popular demand,

But not for Molybdenum or Tantalum, curiously...

Re:Ethical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29183401)

Aluminum... gorn!

Re:Ethical question (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 4 years ago | (#29183555)

A-loo-mi-num has such a nice... woody quality about it, while Al-yoo-min-i-um is a nasty tinny sort of thing.

And which is more appropriate to the material in question?

Re:Ethical question (4, Insightful)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29184111)

Ok, then let's be consistent:

Helum, Lithum, Beryllum, Sodum, Magnesum, Aluminum, Potassum, Calcum, Scandum, Titanum, Vanadum, Chromum, Gallum, Germanum, Selenum, Rubidum, Strontum, Yttrum, Zirconum, ah, who needs more than 40 protons.

Re:Ethical question (1, Redundant)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 4 years ago | (#29183509)

Actually what made my jaw drop about this article is that they are touting this as environmentally friendly? Do they know how much energy it takes to Mine then ship then smelt then ship again then grind to dust all that Aluminium? Give me a break!

Re:Ethical question (1)

Alsn (911813) | more than 4 years ago | (#29184081)

The point is that you can solve those issues separately by using green energy to do all those tasks. If the fuel itself isn't green in the first place however that point is moot.

Re:Ethical question (2, Interesting)

iroll (717924) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182123)

Not for a million years, no. Pretty sure the Earth is capable of that. Come back when you've got nine nine's probability of success on 10 billion years, and we'll talk =)

Re:Ethical question (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182205)

Point taken. "million years" was an implied "at least", not a deadline. But still...

a) I assumed the multiple destinations would then be responsible for their own existential musings and subsequent expansion activities, if needed.

b) Are you sure the current single Earth is cable of nine nines of probability of sustainability? Before you answer, consider external events that might jeopardize this particular bit of real estate... solar events, large rocks, gamma rays from remote sources, etc.

Re:Ethical question (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182251)

In a heartbeat, without hesitation.

Re:Ethical question (3, Insightful)

reilwin (1303589) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182283)

What if this happened in your lifetime...and you're not part of the crew?

Re:Ethical question (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182323)

Then I doubt I'd be in the position to make that call.

Re:Ethical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182535)

You're with AT&T too?

Re:Ethical question (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182341)

Am I on the rocket? If so - yes

Re:Ethical question (1)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182427)

If you want to boil it down to a simple yes/no, I think it largely comes down to a calculation of what supports the most sentient creatures in the end or a sentience total cost of ownership concept. Given that these things are unknowable you would have to turn to statistics, quantify sentience, and then find the set of events with the highest expected value for sentience, Time is relevant to the question you pose only in the fact that it affects the probability calculation for life or death of a unit of sentience.

It's an interesting thought experiment but in the end that's the interesting thing about evolution. Each individual creature can act with self-interest and things like environmental adaptability, altruism, and numerous other emergent behaviors that are a side-effect of the simple will of the individual to survive take questions like this out of our hands for the large part which IMO is a much better system than one person or a small group of people attempting to decide things for themselves within the limited context of their own existence.

Re:Ethical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29185197)

It depends, I'm on the rocket or stuck on Earth?
No, really.
Also, a little ethical question for you: If a rocket with pioneers that could save mankind was opposed because it would destroy the Earth, would that be OK?

Green... eh - manufacture on off planet ... cool! (2, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182133)

Who cares so much if it's "green"? How many of these do we launch a year - that might be what maybe 1/100 of a minute of smog eminating from California? Now... if we can easily manufacture these off earth, THAT should be the headline, IMHO.

Re:Green... eh - manufacture on off planet ... coo (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182613)

The real goal is being able to build it easily on other planets. Although I don't know what they're thinking when they mention the moon. We're yet to find ice on the moon. Hydrogen is exceedingly rare on the lunar surface.

Re:Green... eh - manufacture on off planet ... coo (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182835)

Aluminum is common on the moon, and water may be abundant on Mars. So, we propel the moon into orbit around mars (or better yet, pull Mars into LEO), and... um... PROFIT!

Re:Green... eh - manufacture on off planet ... coo (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182725)

Besides that, aluminum requires enormous amounts of electricity. I fail to see how aluminum fuel can be thought of as green considering the amount of coal that goes into our electrical grid.

Re:Green... eh - manufacture on off planet ... coo (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182901)

shh don't tell them the whole "green" movement is bullshit it'll kill their buzz.

Re:Green... eh - manufacture on off planet ... coo (1)

pearl298 (1585049) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182971)

I don't think the idea is to set up a coal burning plant off planet though.

Even coal buring is MUCH cleaner in a fixed plant where you can put in all kinds of heavy pollution control equipment though.

Pictures of water vapour coming out of the plant chimneys on a cold morning don't count!

Re:Green... eh - manufacture on off planet ... coo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29183879)

The biggest aluminum smelters are located in Iceland, exactly because electricity is so cheap there thanks to the abundance of geothermal energy.

Re:Green... eh - manufacture on off planet ... coo (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 4 years ago | (#29184751)

Relax. The Air Force is involved. It wouldn't go ahead if it was inefficient.

What a novel idea.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182139)

Save the environment while blowing up a chunk of it.

Aluminum powder is green? (4, Interesting)

snarkasaurus (627205) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182189)

In what universe is powdered aluminum "greener" than a hydrogen/oxygen rocket? Even hydrazine burns to an inert end product if I remember my chemistry right (no guarantees there), aluminum is anything but inert.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

captnbmoore (911895) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182221)

The one where there are no cars.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

bob5972 (693297) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182303)

But it burns water and aluminum. Using natural water makes anything green.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182377)

This produces aluminum oxide, which is in a slew of household products. It's considered fairly benign.

Or "green" if you are a douche...

Or "Alzheimer's causing" if trying to sell me some crappy deodorant...

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (5, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182637)

It is easier to produce and easier to store: no need for high-pressure supercooled storage as needed for H2 and O2 storage. Besides, pure O2 is a very dangerous material to handle, which is why in most labs O2 cylinders are at relative low pressure. A leak can cause a fire: grease can combust spontaneously when in contact with pure O2. So handling H2 and O2 costs a lot of effort and energy. That makes them expensive as well. And in general: higher total cost means more resources used and that is always bad for the environment.

Hydrazine is also a very bad poison. Maybe not when it is burnt completely - but 100% combustion is always hard to reach, and I'm too lazy to look up the combustion of hydrazine now. And again it is a real danger in the handling stage. Or when a rocket were to explode upon launch, that is also still a real issue.

Many other solid propellants are either poisonous themselves, or have bad combustion products. Commonly used propellants are very expensive too.

This nAl-H2O (nAl = nano-Aluminium) product is very interesting as the combustion products are Al2O3 (silica) and H2. In the solid state it is also safe, you can probably eat it without adverse health effects. No nutritional values though, the Al particles likely pass unchanged.

And it has other interesting applications as well: nAl-H2O can be stored safely and easily long term, not much risk of leaks as it is a toothpaste-like substance at room temperature. If you were to bring pure nAl particles on e.g. a submarine you can use the reaction with sea water to propel your submarine with the heat of the reaction directly or with the H2 that is produced.

And finally nAl is relatively cheap to produce and Al is plentiful on this planet, water of course also doesn't cost much, and as such it can be a really cheap alternative to current fuels. Production of Al from ore takes a lot of electricity as it is an electrolysis process, which is an environmental issue, though this can be solved by using water, wind or even solar power.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182745)

I may not be up on my chemistry, but I'm pretty sure Al2O3 isn't Silica. It's kind of missing the "silic-" part of the equation. Perhaps you meant Alumina?

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182849)

According to your explanation, the new fuel seems to possess many superior qualities, but labeling it as "green" seems weaselly marketing BS seen too often recently. When did "green" replaced "better"?

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182889)

Labeling it "green" is for sure good for marketing. But that doesn't mean it's not true. The main issue about this fuel (after reading up a bit more on it on Google) is how to use it. The reaction is known and studied since the 1960s already.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

skine (1524819) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182933)

When has green not meant better?

Buying a car which uses no gasoline, but still relies on burning coal is considered the pinnacle of being green.

Burning biodiesel is considered better for the environment than regular gasoline or diesel. Not because its emissions are considerably better, but because it comes from plant.

"Clean" coal will be better than regular coal because instead of letting its emissions go into the air, we plan on trapping "all" of them and burying them.

etc., etc., etc.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (3, Funny)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29184607)

When has green not meant better?

When describing your great aunt's complexion after eating the funny tasting crab salad.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

Aphex Junkie (633436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29184769)

Don't be obtuse.
Biodiesel is better because it does not release *extra* carbon into the air. The plant it came from sucked in existing atmospheric CO2, unlike petroleum-based fuels which release "new" (long-sequestered) CO2.
Also, no one believes that "clean coal" bullshit.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183047)

Besides, pure O2 is a very dangerous material to handle,

My ass its dangerous. Its so not dangerous just about any tom dick or harry can get a bottle and keep it in the garage. Its a *lot* safer than acetylene, and you can have that in your garage right next to the oxygen, in a welding kit. The last O2 bottles I had were 3000psi. Hardly low pressure.

LOX is also pretty safe for the same reasons. Sure you don't go around smoking and stuff. But LOX and O2 and industry standard and quite safe to handle with minimal procedures.

However, having used both Nos and HTP, they are not nearly as safe. As those guys testing a Nos rocket found out. Its chemically unstable on its own. O2 is not.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183271)

The last O2 bottles I had were 3000psi. Hardly low pressure.

3000 psi, that is just over 20 MPa. That is indeed relative low pressure for gas cylinders. Safe, inert gases such as helium, carbon dioxide and nitrogen come in 200 MPa cilinders. Or 30,000 psi for you. I recall even inflammables such as hydrogen come in 200 MPa cylinders. But I have to say it's been like 15 years that I worked with those gases in a lab.

Acetylene is also a special case, according to Wikipedia that is usually dissolved in a solvent inside it's bottle as it tends to explode when overpressurised.

Not silica (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183065)

Just a nitpick : "Al2O3 (silica) ". No. Silica is Silicium Dioxyde (SiO2). Al2O3 is alumina.

Re:Not silica (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183209)

Yes you're totally right, my bad.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183221)

which is why in most labs O2 cylinders are at relative low pressure.

Then labs must be wusses compared to every welding shop in town, where O2 is delivered at 3000 psi (21 MPa for our benighted friends) in a bunch of old metal cylinders clanging around in the back of a truck.

Of course, the same goes for all of those recreational scuba divers - 3000 psi strapped to their back.

Unless I'm greatly mistaken, and the places you work consider this relatively low pressure. In which case, I apologize profusely.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183369)

Sorry, need to pick you up on that one, scuba divers do not use oxygen in their tanks. It is compressed air. Some divers will use enriched air which contains up to 40% oxygen but .

Never pure O2 as it is toxic under pressure.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (2, Informative)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183263)

Side note re hydrazine; 100% combustion is not only impossible it is undesirable for rockets. Most are run a little fuel rich so that there are unburned and partially burned molecules in the exhaust which are lighter than the oxides you would get from complete combustion, and thus for the same energy give slightly higher exhaust velocity.

Hydrazine pollution is a big part of why the Russians are planning to dump Proton for Angara; on the face of it a foolish decision because Proton is cheap, reliable, and almost as capable as the basic Angara designs in terms of payload and orbit. The rationale is that a significant of the cost of a Proton launch is cleaning up the chemical residues it spurts across Kazahkstan.

Fail.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29183517)

That sounded good and almost believable until the AL2O3 is Silica bit....

nAL is cheap to produce? - I doubt it - Aluminium in it's natural form is AL2O3 (there are other rare compounds but AL2O3 is the most common by several orders of magnitude) and must be first be refined (made pure - chuck out the junk) and then reduced - hence the requirement for energy - lots and lots of energy as aluminium is a great reduction agent.
nAL production is more a means of bypassing the metal stage and thus avoiding large crystals as a means to get to 'nano crystals'
check out http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20090098365 for what is required to replace electrolysis.
electrolysis is simple and hugely scalable
nAL production not simple and difficult to scale

On a sub note - as soon as I see 'put production facilities on the moon or mars' I wince and put everything after that into spin doctoring filter - rarely does anything escape the filter cause it's basically bullshit for the masses

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29183587)

Hydrazine is downright evil. It's extremely toxic, but also hallucinogen so you get disoriented before you're killed off, at low concentrations. At even lower concentrations it is "just" carcinogen.

Oh, and did I mention that it's explosive? It explodes if you look at it wrong.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (2, Informative)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182651)

Free Aluminum is non-inert (that's kind of the entire point of a rocket which uses free aluminum as one of its fuels). Aluminum bound to oxygen (like that which is found in water ice, aluminum's bond is more powerful that hydrogen), on the other hand, can be (depending on formula of course) one of the strongest bonds in the natural world. Bauxite (AL2O3) is very inert compared to most other compounds.

Just because one of the chemicals involved is non-inert doesn't mean the product will be non-inert. Chemistry 101 and the existence of Salt teaches that.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183283)

However, applying a little basic rocket science on top of that says that for optimal performance you run fuel rich, because aluminium particles are much lighter than aluminium oxide particles, and thus you want some of the fuel to be unburned and act purely as reaction mass. Part of the pollution problems with other rocket propellants (storable and solid) is that they don't burn some of their propellant. Its easy to run an environmentally optimal mix when you want to get to 1,300ft - its a little harder when you need to make it into orbit.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182707)

I'm pretty sure that quite a pile of waste gets generated in the aluminum refining process. It is separated from the ore using electrolysis. So while the rocket exhaust itself may be "green", the production of the fuel certainly is not.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183245)

In the universe of PR. In terms of carbon footprint, I guess all cryogens are bad because of the electricity required (but why not get that from a green source? Like a nuclear power station ;-) )

However, kicking particles of aluminium into the air is pollution, so not green when you get past the simplistic view of carbon emissions. Aluminium has been linked to some fairly nasty human health conditions when ingested in excess.

Re:Aluminum powder is green? (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#29184325)

Hydrogen is not a storable propellant. Solid propellants such as the ones used in the Shuttle SRBs produce clorine gas on combustion.

To the Moon (5, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182227)

I suspect that the rocket's first stage will have a Radium - Aluminum - Phosphorus based fuel (RAALPh) and will propel the ALICE stage to the moon. Straight to the moon. One of these days.

Re:To the Moon (0, Offtopic)

skine (1524819) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182267)

"We're whalers on the moon,
We carry a harpoon.
But there ain't no whales
So we tell tall tales
And sing our whaling tune."

Re:To the Moon (2, Funny)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182449)

I suspect that the rocket's first stage will have a Radium - Aluminum - Phosphorus based fuel (RAALPh) and will propel the ALICE stage to the moon. Straight to the moon. One of these days.

Oh. Mod points gone. Oh my ribs...

Re:To the Moon (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182527)

Snap! I accidentally my entire lunch laughing at that one.

Re:To the Moon (2, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183131)

Well, the radium and phosphorus would certainly ensure that the rocket stays "green" (even in the dark)

Re:To the Moon (2, Funny)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183301)

As would much of the wildlife in the range

ALICE powder, eh? (-1, Offtopic)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182249)

I cannot divulge what precisely it means, but I have in my possession a conversation from [amazon.com] long ago that sounds as if it bodes ill for this "ALICE powder":

ANNIE. Sure, it's not good for you that you should be goin' out on this night, Miss Alice.

MATILDA. Do you feel worse, Alice?

ALICE. No better. If I go out I shall suffer terribly.

MATILDA. Here. Take one of these powders. (gives ALICE powder )

ALICE. I'll take it as soon as I go to my room. Thank you, Auntie. You won't mind if I don't go with you, will you?

MATILDA. Mrs. Terret will be disappointed, it's all I can say. But if you will suffer, of course it's best you remain here. Annie will look after you.
      (to ANNIE) Mr. Harold will remain at home to watch the house, Annie. I wish you to watch Mr. Harold.

ANNIE. Yes, Miss Deering.

MATILDA. If you smell cigarette smoke, investigate at once. That's all, Annie.

Hm... (1)

Rehnberg (1618505) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182257)

Does this mean that we could send all the stuff we need to launch a rocket to the moon, assemble it there, then make the fuel and launch it from the moon? It seems to me that doing this would save quite a bit of fuel and allow us to go farther into space.

Re:Hm... (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182279)

It would be easier if water could be found on the moon.

Re:Hm... (1)

JakartaDean (834076) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183115)

Wouldn't conservation of energy still apply? You'd expend all the energy needed to lift the mass of "one standard rocket ship" out of Earth, land it on the moon, then expend even more energy getting it off the surface of the moon. How is that better than lifting "one standard rocket ship" directly off the Earth? (Yes, I admit there might be scale effects where we don't have a large efficient rocket capable of lifting said mass in one go.)

Re:Hm... (2, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29185205)

Wouldn't conservation of energy still apply? You'd expend all the energy needed to lift the mass of "one standard rocket ship" out of Earth, land it on the moon, then expend even more energy getting it off the surface of the moon. How is that better than lifting "one standard rocket ship" directly off the Earth? (Yes, I admit there might be scale effects where we don't have a large efficient rocket capable of lifting said mass in one go.)

You build one "standard rocket" on Earth, which is capable of going to the moon.

You fill it with fuel, and send it off to the moon. It arrives with empty tanks.

Now, at this point, you have one "standard rocket" sans fuel, sitting on the moon. The rocket had to have had around 15 km/sec deltaV when it started, which was just about enough to go to the moon and land there.

You refuel it from fuel made on the moon. Now you have a rocket with 15 km/sec deltaV sitting on the moon.

Hmm, how far can you go with that...tough one. Allow for 5 km/sec to be blown on the landing wherever we're going to land. It probably won't be that much, since we'll probably use aerobraking to some extent, but let's be generous. 10 km/sec left.

We launch from the moon, on an orbit that'll pass within 500 km of the Earth's surface, where we'll make a second burn to send us outbound....

The rocket leaves the vicinity of Earth at somewhat more than solar escape speed.

In other words, such a "standard rocket", if refueled on the moon from fuel made on the moon, and relaunched, can go basically anywhere in the Solar System. It can do it relatively quickly (relative to what we can currently launch - we're not talking hundreds of km/sec here). Jupiter in a year, Mars in a few weeks, that sort of thing....

I tried this once (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182291)

I was watching a TV show about this last year. I heard that you could repack Testor's engines. They used aluminum powder, potassium nitrate, and sulfur. I think that you are allowed to launch them up to 2000 ft.

Hey you know that ALICE chick? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182313)

...She goes off like a rocket!

No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollutes (4, Insightful)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182315)

All this talk about this and that going "green" is just puff; no real meaning beyond getting PR and more funding.

I don't see how any rocket can be considered "green" considering most all of the environmental impact is not from firing the rocket, but is from building it.

Ending all wars and stabilizing human population would go far further towards safeguarding the environment than all these feel-good "green" initiatives.

Ron

Re:No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollut (1)

psycho12345 (1134609) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182655)

Ending all wars and stabilizing human population

Aren't those near diametrically opposite actions? Last time I checked, wars or plagues are some of the best checks on population growth.

Re:No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollut (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182763)

Apparently, not enough. The black death was but a blip [susps.org] . Real population control will require real intent to control population.

Re:No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollut (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182875)

Hmm... If you put too many rats in one container they resort to cannibalism despite being well fed. When I heard about that study someone mentioned that other studies were looking at whether this phenomenon could explain higher crime rates in cities. However, I'd never really thought of war (and resulting plague) as a major population control factor for humans. Perhaps humans seem inherently violent because we are still hardcoded to deal with hunter-gatherer level population densities. Thus modern society might trigger anti-over-population adaptations (evolutionary hold-overs) such as war. That would make space colonization very attractive... e.g. lower human population density and the resulting wastes of resources while retaining our ability to share knowledge.

Re:No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollut (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183317)

Not really. The only proven effective method of stabilizing population is to give women the choice over whether to have children. Happily, this is also the Right Thing To Do. Sometimes the universe throws you a bone.

Re:No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollut (1)

noisyinstrument (1624451) | more than 4 years ago | (#29183611)

Ending all wars and stabilizing human population

Aren't those near diametrically opposite actions? Last time I checked, wars or plagues are some of the best checks on population growth.

Yeah, but last time I checked wiping out the human race wasn't part of the green movement's long term goals.

Re:No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollut (1)

pearl298 (1585049) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182993)

Arguably the best way to prevent war and eliminate poverty would be to scatter billions of condoms from high flying aeroplanes throughout the third world.

Re:No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183119)

I don't see how any rocket can be considered "green" considering most all of the environmental impact is not from firing the rocket, but is from building it.

And, of course, because it takes energy and resources to do things, the obvious green solution is to just stop that altogether.

Re:No Rocket is Green - Building It Is What Pollut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29183653)

Not just that, but the fact that they build these rockets to be disposable is even worse. (and the Space Station...)

When the fuck will NASA stop being so god damn wasteful?!
I can come up with plenty of ways to save the Space Station, and i KNOW they will have as well.
Yet, 4 years after full completion, bye-bye.

Clever acronym, but... (1)

joe_kull (238178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182371)

Isn't it already taken [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Clever acronym, but... (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182517)

taken [wikipedia.org] several [wikipedia.org] times [wikipedia.org] , for that matter

Yahbut (1)

pitterpatter (1397479) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182577)

who would mix them up?

Yes, it's a clever acronym, and yes it's already taken, but context is everything here.

Details (1)

pitterpatter (1397479) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182479)

OK. I want details. How fine does the aluminum powder have to be? Is it available commercially, or do I need to get out a grinder and a piece of bar stock? Do you need to powder your water ice to mix them together, or can you mix them while the water's liquid and then cool them while mixing, maybe in something like an ice cream maker? I guess the first question should have been, how stable is the stuff at room temperature? If it is stable at room temperature, what does it take to set it off - I mean, ignite it?

I don't exactly see anything to bust, but Adam and Jamie definitely should have a go with this stuff.

Re:Details (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182671)

The Aluminum powder in the article is nano-scale, good luck with that grinder. Normal Aluminum powder could probably produce a similar (though much less powerful) effect since it's one of the two components in (the most common form of) Thermite.

Re:Details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182701)

You can buy it at the hardware store. It's used to mix up roofing paint (for tin roofs). As a teenager in the '70s we used to mix it up with sulpher and charcoal powder (to slow down the reaction, otherwise it just explodes) and make rockets.

Re:Details (1)

Bent Mind (853241) | more than 4 years ago | (#29183695)

OK. I want details. How fine does the aluminum powder have to be? Is it available commercially, or do I need to get out a grinder and a piece of bar stock?

Curious about it, I Googled nano aluminum powder. It seems easy to purchase it. Several sites sell it. I also found some interesting bits of information.

There appear to be a few different processes to creating it. Here is one example:

Aluminum nanoparticle is produced by laser evaporation process. The raw material used is high purity Aluminum.

Another example:

The nano aluminum particles were produced in different ambiance by the wire explosion process.

It also has a lot of applications. Just to name a few, I found references to rocket propellant, micro-electronics, and high-strength alloys. Cool stuff.

Now as to the rest of your questions, I'm still curious...

Bubble gum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182521)

I wonder what flavor of water ice they used.

mod Up (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29182585)

OUTER !SPACE TNHE

Pure government waste and PR (3, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182789)

All these gigantic federal government agencies commonly put on displays like this to look good in public and to make the next budget request go smoother. Truth is, any aerospace project run by the government costs so many resources that it's kind of irrelevent whether it's environmentally friendly or not. If you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on something, your actions cause the labor of thousands of people, all of whom will burn up all kinds of resources to get the job done. It doesn't really matter what the resulting rocket burns - the pollution from all the machinery and coal power plants and pickup trucks and countless other things is far greater.

The government needs to do what private industry can't : research a cost effective vehicle for accessing space. Whether that be an elevator, a bank of lasers, a gigantic railgun, or a factory in Russia mass producing simple rockets, we need something drastically better than the current crap. Until something is done about the stupendous costs of rockets, it's pointless to even discuss trips to far off planets and other big manned expeditions.

Nitrogen compounds (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182885)

Still going to be various nasty nitrogen compounds from the heat of the exhaust interacting with the atmosphere I bet.

So, the important question (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 5 years ago | (#29182887)

Can I use this ALICE to build an inexpensive rocket myself?

1300 feet or 430m ? (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 4 years ago | (#29183567)

Every amateur rocket size 10 inch can do that.

what is the chemical reaction? 3H2O + 2Al = Al2O3 + 6H ??

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