A new steam-powered spacecraft aiming to understand asteroids and other celestial objects through mining marks a collaboration between a UCF planetary researcher and a private space company.
UCF researcher, Phil Metzger, collaborated with Honeybee Robotics, located in Pasadena, California, to develop the World Is Not Enough, or WINE, spacecraft prototype. The spacecraft extracts water from asteroids to generate steam and create momentum as it moves to its next mining target, according to a university press release.
The project also collaborated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, while developing the initial prototypes of the steam-based rocket thrusters. UCF provided simulated asteroid material developed by a team of UCF astrophysicists in September 2018. Metzger created the computer modeling and simulations for the experiment, and Honeybee created the prototype at its facility, according to the press release.
The spacecraft is only the size of a microwave oven, yet WINE’s continual mining of water and steam conversion could theoretically allow it to move from asteroids to other celestial objects continuously. The spacecraft also uses solar panels as an energy source to mine the steam, according to the press release.
NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer program also contributed to this project through creating marketable commercial products through the partnership of universities and small businesses.
The government shutdown has halted current work at NASA and will face delays until Congress passes an appropriations bill funding the government agencies.
The WINE spacecraft marks a collaborative effort between NASA, academic institutions and industry representatives. The team is continuing to look for partners as it further develops the spacecraft.