NASA Artemis 1: Why Use Liquid Hydrogen

On September 21, NASA completed tanking demonstration tests for its Artemis 1 mission, but a liquid hydrogen leak during the test brought up an old problem that has dogged the effort. The second launch attempt had to be scrubbed due to a persistent liquid hydrogen leak. Why has this fuel, which is so challenging to deal with, become the preferred rocket fuel for space missions? Let’s investigate.

Both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen are cryogenic gases, which means that only very low temperatures may for them to become liquid. The fuel presents significant technological difficulties as a result. Liquid hydrogen needs to be handled carefully and kept at a temperature of around minus 217 degrees Celsius.

Liquid hydrogen-fueled rocket tanks must be protected from all heat sources, such as the exhaust from the rocket’s engine and air friction during flight. However, despite these difficulties, hydrogen has several unique benefits.

It burns extremely strongly at temperatures above 2,600 degrees Celsius and has the smallest molecular weight of any known material. Liquid hydrogen produces the highest specific impulse (or efficiency) in relation to the amount of propellant used when paired with liquid oxygen.

According to NASA, the United States Air Force tested utilizing liquid hydrogen as fuel between 1956 and 1958 in one of the first and most significant experiments. The Air Force invested more than $100 million in the project, even though few people knew about it at the time and are still aware of it today. In modern currency, that amounts to more than a quarter billion.

The test project, Suntan, was an attempt to create a hydrogen-fueled aircraft that was intended to replace the Lockheed U2, which was the Air Force’s preferred spy plane at the time. Even though the project was abandoned before it was finished, it was the catalyst for the creation of the first rocket to use hydrogen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *