ESA Portal - 2010 March 16
On the day running up to launch when a spacecraft is fuelled, ground personnel look more like astronauts than engineers, putting on spacesuit-like protective gear.
This is an essential precaution when dealing with the current hydrazine fuel, but a new development could make satellite fuelling no more dangerous than filling up a car.
Officially called LMP-103S, this new fuel is a blend of ammonium dinitramide (ADN) with water, methanol and ammonia. ESA and the Swedish Space Corporation have been researching storable ADN-based liquid mono-propellants through a series of contracts since 1997. Details of their latest project, a 1-N ADN thruster intended for space applications, were unveiled at ESTEC’s Techno/Innovation Days in February.
“ADN has a 30% better performance than hydrazine, and is much less toxic,” said Mark Ford, Head of ESA’s Propulsion Engineering section. “Unlike hydrazine it is safe to transport by aircraft and can be worked with in shirt sleeves rather than protective suits.