Researchers from Imperial College London have created a groundbreaking rocket engine that uses water as its main source of fuel. Known as the Iridium Catalysed Electrolysis CubeSat Thruster (ICE-Cube Thruster), this tiny engine has the potential to revolutionize how small satellites maneuver in space.
The engine functions through a process called electrolysis, where water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using an electric current. These gases are then directed into a combustion chamber and nozzle, both of which are less than 1mm in length. Once ignited, the gases produce thrust, allowing the satellite to change its position and perform various maneuvers.
One of the key advantages of the ICE-Cube Thruster is its efficient use of electrolysis. With a power consumption of only 20 watts, the engine can generate the necessary hydrogen and oxygen propellants without the need for large storage tanks. This eliminates a significant obstacle in miniaturizing propulsion systems, as bulky storage tanks often hinder the size and maneuverability of small satellites.
The development of this water-powered engine opens up new possibilities for the miniaturization and cost reduction of satellite propulsion systems. With its compact design and reliance on water, the ICE-Cube Thruster could potentially make small satellites more accessible and affordable for research, communication, and other space-related applications.
Further research and testing are still required to optimize the performance and reliability of the engine. However, the potential benefits that this technology offers make it an exciting advancement in the field of satellite propulsion.
Imperial College London