On January 31, Stardust 1.0 was launched from Loring Commerce Centre in Maine, US, a former military base, becoming the first commercial space launch powered by biofuel, which is non-toxic for the environment as opposed to traditionally used rocket fuels.
What is Stardust 1.0?
Stardust 1.0 is a launch vehicle suited for student and budget payloads. The rocket is 20 feet tall and has a mass of roughly 250 kg. The rocket can carry a maximum payload mass of 8 kg and during its first launch carried three payloads. According to a report in Politico, the payloads included a CubeSat prototype built by high school students, a metal alloy designed to lessen vibrations, which is developed by Kellogg’s Research Labs and a CubeSat from software company Rocket Insights.
These rockets will help to launch small satellites called cubesat into space in a way that is relatively cheaper than using traditional rocket fuel and is less toxic for the environment. Other rockets being developed by the company include Stardust Gen. 2, Starless Rouge and Red Dwarf, which is a low-Earth orbit (LEO) vehicle and is designed to fly a maximum payload of 30 kg.
There are other companies working towards making access to space easier. One of them is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s space company called Blue Origin. Last year in October, the company tested a rocket system called New Shephard. The rocket system is meant to take tourists to space eventually and offers flights to space over 100 km above Earth and accommodation for payloads. Such efforts are a part of a growing number of commercial space companies that are working to provide easier and cheaper access to space to laypeople and also to make access to space cost-effective for purposes of academic research, corporate technology development and entrepreneurial ventures among others.
Significantly, the accommodation of mini payloads provides easier access to space to not only experienced researchers but also to students who are part of educational institutions and are working to develop their own space programs “for less than the price of new football uniforms” as Blue Origin has put it.
biofuels are obtained from biomass, which can be converted directly into liquid fuels that can be used as transportation fuels. According to the US government’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the two most common kinds of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel and they both represent the first generation of biofuel technology. Ethanol, for instance, is renewable and made from different kinds of plant materials. Biodiesel on the other hand is produced by combining alcohol with new and used vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled cooking grease.