NASA’s Designs for Deep Space Exploration

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has explored the moon and is now working to go beyond the moon into deep space. It will accomplish this by using new technology and equipment, a new outpost, Gateway, as well as a rotating detonation rocket engine developed by a team of engineers at NASA. 

On January 25, 2023, NASA announced a new rotating detonation rocket that a team of engineers designed, built, and tested. The rocket, RDRE, meaning Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine, could possibly change how propulsion systems are built in the future. That is due to the advanced design the engineers came up with that includes detonation. Detonation, which is a supersonic combustion occurrence, will allow the rocket to produce a bunch of power using little fuel to carry human landers and interplanetary vehicles to deep space. When humans or valuable technology is on board a rocket, everything in the rocket needs to work properly. For example, that is why the Artemis 1 mission was postponed a few times, to make sure the scientists, engineers, and other NASA employees could check the rocket and technology. However, for RDRE, there have been numerous tests. It has passed the primary tests proving its hardware could withstand high levels of heat and pressure for long periods of time. NASA states, “While operating at full throttle, the RDRE produced over 4,000 pounds of thrust for nearly a minute at an average chamber pressure of 622 pounds per square inch, the highest pressure rating for this design on record.” This goes to show how much more advanced this design is than other designs. 

Diagram of the nozzle in the bottom right corner on the RDRE. Photo provided by MDPI.

  Along with the RDRE, NASA is also using Gateway, a new outpost system, to help with future missions. Working alongside international partners, NASA hopes the multi-purpose outpost system will help in the staging process of future missions to deep space. When astronauts for the Artemis missions live and work on it, it will be in lunar orbit as they research deep space. Gateway will also be powered by the most powerful solar electric spacecraft, Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), which generates 60 kilowatts of power to run the spacecraft and keep it in orbit around the moon. The PPE will also allow for more cargo on lower-cost missions by having solar arrays the size of football end zones which use one-tenth of the propellant required by conventional systems. Gateway will also have living quarters for the astronauts, Habilitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). Although, even though astronauts will live there, they will prepare for missions to the lunar surface. 

With the new technology being developed and tested, NASA will be able to go much farther than Mars. We might be able to see a spacecraft or satellite travel outside the Milky Way galaxy. Technology might even advance enough to go beyond our solar system and possibly find extraterrestrial life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s