Whereas photo voltaic panels can present the electrical energy an area probe wants, it requires a propellant to really transfer, and ultra-efficient ion engines aren’t the reply since they want costly Xenon fuel. Meet the World is Not Sufficient (WINE) experiment by the College of Central Florida and Honeybee Robotics. This steam-powered spacecraft is designed to fly to an asteroid, conduct analysis and mine for water on the similar time. As soon as refueled, it may possibly transfer onto its subsequent goal or asteroid. Learn extra to see a prototype in-action and for added data.

On December 31, a microwave oven sized prototype ‘hopper’ was positioned in a vacuum tank that was crammed with a layer of simulated asteroid soil. The spacecraft gathered its personal gasoline after which efficiently ‘took off’.

“WINE efficiently mined the soil, made rocket propellant and launched itself on a jet of steam extracted from the simulant. We may doubtlessly use this expertise to hop on the Moon, Ceres, Europa, Titan, Pluto, the poles of Mercury, asteroids — anyplace there may be water and sufficiently low gravity,” stated UCF planetary scientist Phil Metzger.