Hatfield uni develops rocket that could get man to Mars

PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 September 2010

Sathyakumar Sharma a University of Salford student, who worked on the rocket project during his time at the University of Hertfordshire - Photograph by Pete Stevens

Sathyakumar Sharma a University of Salford student, who worked on the rocket project during his time at the University of Hertfordshire - Photograph by Pete Stevens

© Pete Stevens 2010; UK mobile tel: 07770616121; www.CreativeEmpathy.com

A ROCKET, developed at the University of Hertfordshire, could provide technology suitable for taking man to Mars – and is almost ready for take-off.

"The idea is that a Mars rocket (not this one) could save a lot of cost and mass by not taking with it the propellants it needs for its return flight.
One method of doing this is to use an easily available Martian resource, carbon dioxide, as a propellant, and burn it with aluminium or magnesium powder.
However, this is new technology so research needs to be done to prove it will work and to develop it fully."

Ray Wilkinson

Standing at five-and-a-half ft tall, the rocket at the Hatfield uni will never quite reach those dizzy heights.

However, its dual fuel science might just be the answer to get to the red planet.

Developed by Ray Wilkinson of the uni’s design and rocket propulsion group and student Sathyakumar Sharma from the University of Salford, it works by taking CO2 and turning it into carbon, which is the opposite of what most existing spacecrafts do.

The initial stages of the project have been completed, but Mr Wilkinson told the Welwyn Hatfield Times they need to find a motor to power it.

He said: “We hope to have it flying by the end of the year, it’s almost at a stage of being ready to fly.

“I reckon it will reach around 1,500ft but we are focused on the technology of this rocket, rather than its performance.”

The 52-year-old, who has been at the College Lane uni for 18 years, also explained the rocket’s ecological and economical impact.

“The idea is that a Mars rocket (not this one) could save a lot of cost and mass by not taking with it the propellants it needs for its return flight.

“One method of doing this is to use an easily available Martian resource, carbon dioxide, as a propellant, and burn it with aluminium or magnesium powder.

“However, this is new technology so research needs to be done to prove it will work and to develop it fully.”

He added: “A test has been done in the laboratory already in Purdue University, USA, but we aim to be the first in the world to build a flight-capable motor, and to demonstrate the feasibility with a low-altitude flight – maybe a mile high – of a small rocket.”

The Welwyn Hatfield Times reported last year how Mr Wilkinson’s team developed a toffee-powered rocket and a sled which reaches more than 1,200mph in about a third of a second.


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