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Aerospace Fuels From Nonpetroleum Raw MaterialsRecycling human metabolic and plastic wastes minimizes cost and increases efficiency by reducing the need to transport consumables and return trash, respectively, from orbit to support a space station crew. If the much larger costs of transporting consumables to the Moon and beyond are taken into account, developing waste recycling technologies becomes imperative and possibly mission enabling. Reduction of terrestrial waste streams while producing energy and/or valuable raw materials is an opportunity being realized by a new generation of visionary entrepreneurs; several relevant technologies are briefly compared, contrasted and assessed for space applications. A two-step approach to nonpetroleum raw materials utilization is presented; the first step involves production of supply or producer gas. This is akin to synthesis gas containing carbon oxides, hydrogen, and simple hydrocarbons. The second step involves production of fuel via the Sabatier process, a methanation reaction, or another gas-to-liquid technology, typically Fischer-Tropsch processing. Optimization to enhance the fraction of product stream relevant to transportation fuels via catalytic (process) development at NASA Glenn Research Center is described. Energy utilization is a concern for production of fuels whether for operation on the lunar or Martian surface, or beyond. The term green relates to not only mitigating excess carbon release but also to the efficiency of energy usage. For space, energy usage can be an essential concern. Another issue of great concern is minimizing impurities in the product stream(s), especially those that are potential health risks and/or could degrade operations through catalyst poisoning or equipment damage; technologies being developed to remove heteroatom impurities are discussed. Alternative technologies to utilize waste fluids, such as a propulsion option called the resistojet, are discussed. The resistojet is an electric propulsion technology with a powered thruster to vaporize and heat a propellant to high temperature, hot gases are subsequently passed through a converging-diverging nozzle expanding gases to supersonic velocities. A resistojet can accommodate many different fluids, including various reaction chamber (by-)products.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Palaszewski, Bryan A.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Hepp, Aloysius F.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Kulis, Michael J.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Jaworske, Donald A.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
August 27, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 2013
Subject Category
Energy Production And Conversion
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2013-0591
Meeting Information
Meeting: 51st Aerospace Sciences Meeting
Location: Grapevine, TX
Country: United States
Start Date: January 7, 2013
End Date: January 10, 2013
Sponsors: American Inst. of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 203950.04.02.04
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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