AFRL Puts New Technologies Into Space Aboard World’s Most Powerful Launch Vehicle

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July 16, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: July 16 on


The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) successfully put new technologies into space, June 25, as part of the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP-2) mission, managed by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful launch vehicle in the world, blasted off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, FL, at 2:30 a.m. EDT. It was the Falcon Heavy’s first night flight and just its third launch overall. It was also the first Falcon Heavy to fly using reused boosters.

The rocket carried 24 experimental satellites into space, including the Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft, which enables the first ever on-orbit demonstration of the AFRL-developed Advanced Spacecraft Energetic Non-toxic Propellant.

Space demonstration of this new propellant, ASCENT, formerly known as AF-M315E, marks a major milestone in a national effort to develop new energetic propellants to replace hydrazine, the current established chemical propellant of choice for nearly all current satellite propulsion. Not only is ASCENT 50{1f71c8e63fc312dbb7e68cbee9f84746085cdcbce567c037f7e85e4e98c84910} higher performing than hydrazine, it is also a vastly safer alternative, allowing for streamlined ground operations relative to legacy propellants. While hydrazine is flammable, toxic, and requires the use of self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble suits for handling operations, ASCENT propellant requires minimal personal protective equipment such as a lab coat and a splash guard for the face.

“The demonstration of a revolutionary green propellant for spacecraft propulsion is critical as we move toward space operations being the new normal,” said Dr. Shawn Phillips, Chief of AFRL’s Rocket Propulsion Division at Edwards Air Force Base, CA.