Simple, Fuel-Efficient Rocket Engine Could Enable Cheaper, Lighter Spacecraft

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February 25, 2020 | Originally published by Date Line: February 25 on

It takes a lot of fuel to launch something into space. Sending NASA’s Space Shuttle into orbit required more than 3.5 million pounds of fuel, which is about 15 times heavier than a blue whale.

But a new type of engine — called a rotating detonation engine — promises to make rockets not only more fuel efficient but also more lightweight and less complicated to construct. There’s just one problem – right now, this engine is too unpredictable to be used in an actual rocket.

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a mathematical model that describes how these engines work. With this information, engineers can, for the first time, develop tests to improve these engines and make them more stable. The team published these findings January 10 in Physical Review E.

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