Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No. 192: Hydrazine-free fuel for the attitude-control engine (November 18, 2010)

Mitsubishi Heavy developed hydrazine-free fuel for the attitude-control engine to be used for artificial satellites. Because hydrazine is highly toxic, the company used hydroxylammonium nitrate (HAN) instead that is less harmful for the human body and increased the safety and fuel efficiency. Because HAN has lower toxicity than hydrazine, neither gas protection clothes nor special equipment is needed in filling fuel. In fact, the HAN-dependent fuel reduces the cost to launch a satellite by about 20%. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is also developing the HAN fuel, and Mitsubishi Heavy successfully optimized the ratio of water and ethanol to be mixed with HAN and made the fuel more easily burnable. Mitsubishi Heavy also developed figure and material of the catalyst that converts fuel to gas of the propulsion device and increased the efficiency. The newly-developed propulsion device secured the same amount of thrust with less than two thirds of the weight of the conventional model. As Mitsubishi Heavy expects growing demand for the low orbit satellite that goes around the earth at an altitude below 1,000 km, it plans to market the new fuel and the propulsion device for low orbit satellites. The new propulsion device will be about 30% lower in price that the hydrazine-dependent propulsion device. The company projects to launch a satellite incorporating its new fuel and propulsion device in two years.

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