Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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A Safer Liftoff

An innovative rocket-fuel system uses a novel source of power and breakthrough engineering to deliver high-energy thrust with improved safety.
March 22, 2016
A Safer Liftoff

The next-generation rocket? Los Alamos scientists recently tested a powerful new rocket fuel and motor that is safer because the fuel is kept separate from its oxidizer. The new rocket motor and fuel outperformed commercial rockets in thrust with at least twice the velocity. (Photo: Los Alamos)

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One day IsoFOX might even power a small satellite to the moon.

On a broad mesquite plain in central New Mexico, a small crew fits a metal cylinder into a rocket the size of a baseball bat, then slips the rocket onto guide rods on a platform. A “Los Alamos” logo on the fuselage certifies this launch as official science by the world-famous national security science laboratory, not a weekend outing with the kids.

Bryce Tappan and a handful of scientists, engineers, and students from Los Alamos National Laboratory and New Mexico Tech in Socorro stand back as another crew member handles a control box set on a folding table. He counts down, “Three, two, one, zero!” The rocket issues a loud pssshhhhhewwwweeee! and whisks into the cobalt sky, the slender cylinder trailing a stream of gases and tilting toward horizontal as it soars to its apogee.

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