The fuel that powers most spacecraft today is incredibly toxic to living organisms. This is usually not a big problem if you send something into space. However, there can be some risk when a spacecraft crashes back to earth due to a mishap. It is also a major obstacle for engineers who work closely with space-based hardware every day.
NASA believes that this may be remedied by a new, "green" fuel alternative that replaces highly toxic substances with hydrazine, a new formulation that is much safer and, as it turns out, even more powerful than modern ones rocket fuels.
As NASA explains in a recent blog post, the new, pink-colored fuel for engineers is a lot more secure grip. Handling the toxic hydrazine requires considerable precautions, including gloves, body suits and even oxygen masks. The greener fuel alternative still needs to be treated with care, but does not require the incredibly strict rules of its predecessor.
The advantage for NASA and other space groups is that the fueling process in the preparatory procedures could be done earlier to a start, not to mention cheaper. As an added bonus, the new, safer fuel is about 50 percent more efficient than the more toxic option, allowing spacecraft more room to maneuver or travel longer distances with the same amount of fuel.
The first in-space test of the new fuel will come later this month when SpaceX will launch the NASA's Green Propellant Infusion (GPIM) satellite. The spacecraft will give NASA the opportunity to test the fuel and see if this is a viable option for future missions. If all goes well, the new fuel could be the next standard for rocket fuel, providing more safety and efficiency.