Rocket City Space Pioneers Google Lunar X Prize team test-fires “green” rocket engine

A "green" rocket engine designed by Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama, undergoes hot-fire testing. (Dynetics photo)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – The Rocket City Space Pioneers Google Lunar X Prize team announced Friday the successful test-firing of a new “green” rocket engine for its lunar rover. The engine was developed by Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, corporate-leader of the team racing to land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon.

Team leader Tim Pickens said the team conducted hot-fire testing of a non-toxic hydrogen-peroxide-kerosene bi-propellent rocket thruster. The test generated data for NASA, Pickens said, which chose Dynetics in October to supply flight component data for future human and robotic landers. The team also provided data  from ongoing lunar rover prototype testing, Pickens said.

Teaming on the testing were Draper Laboratories (guidance, navigation and control algorithms), Teledyne Brown Engineering (thermal analysis inputs) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville and University of Washington (rover wheel designs and driving algorithms).

“Our team is excited to be contributing to NASA’s mission of pioneering space exploration,” Pickens said. “We are pleased with the results of our rocket engine’s hot-fire test and look forward to continued work on our lander and rover and future opportunities with NASA.”

The Google Lunar X Prize is an international competition to land a rover on the moon, navigate at least 500 meters and send back video, images and data to Earth. The first team to do that will win $20 million.

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