Could biodiesel power future rockets?
Could future trips to space be powered by vegetable oil? In a test firing earlier this month, the California-based engineering firm Flometrics announced that commercially available biodiesel produced almost the same amount of thrust as conventional rocket fuel.
The find may not come as much of a surprise. After all, biodiesel is already being tested by the airline industry, which gobbles up billions of gallons of jet fuel each year.
But despite fluctuating petroleum prices, interest in alternative fuels among rocket builders has been slow to grow. Flometrics leader Steve Harrington hopes the test will stoke interest in biodiesel-powered rocketry. “Most rocket scientists are knee-jerk anti-environmentalists,” Harrington says. “But we’re going to run out of rocket fuel at some point, so what are we going to run our rockets on after that?”
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