WASHINGTON — Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed a green propulsion system that will be tested on a NASA mission in 2016, the company announced Aug. 19.

The propulsion system consists of a propellant tank and five thrusters that each produce 0.22 pounds of force. It uses AF-M315E, a nontoxic fuel developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory that provides higher performance than conventional propellants like hydrazine that are also hazardous to handle.

“This propulsion system delivery marks the success of more than 10 years of research and development,” Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of advanced space and launch programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne, said in a prepared statement. “Following extensive testing, we ended up with a propulsion design using a new, green monopropellant, which will fly into orbit in 2016.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne developed the system for the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), a spacecraft funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate to test the propulsion system and related technologies. The mission is scheduled to launch in late 2016 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. is building the GPIM spacecraft.


Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...