This rocket runs on cow poop.
Japanese engineers have successfully test-fired a space rocket engine, which runs on — not even joking — locally-sourced cow poop.
A Japanese startup called Interstellar Technologies Inc. trumpeted in a statement that the company was able to kickstart ZERO, its space rocket engine, in a 10-second "static fire test" in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island prefecture. And powering up the rocket's engine is liquid biomethane, derived from cow dung sourced from Hokkaido dairy farms.
Video on the social media platform X shows the engine firing up and shooting a super-hot jet of blue, horizontal flame.
The company, which plans to perform more tests fires into the month of January, is positioning the rocket to be used to launch satellites into low-Earth orbit.
Beyond the awe factor of seeing a rocket engine first burst into life, the fact that it runs on fuel derived from cow dung is indeed an impressive milestone, because it addresses a concern that critics have raised about space rockets and off-planet expeditions: their environmental toll.
Currently, the commercial outfit SpaceX, which NASA has been relying on for launches, has its Falcon 9 rocket running on fuel made from oxygen and kerosene. Emissions from these rocket launches may be leaving black soot in the upper atmosphere of our planet, with particles having the potential to stay up there for several years. Their presence may be adding to our global warming problem, as well as damaging the delicate ozone layer.
As space industry, exploration and tourism continue to ramp up, the climate impact of all these rocket launches will need to be addressed. And fast, because the planet is approaching a climate tipping point as we pump more carbon into the atmosphere.
That's why using cow dung-derived fuel seems so enticing. Cattle and other livestock are a major global source of methane, with their poop and belching constituting more than 14 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
Imagine taking some of that waste and using it to launch rockets — or even to warm your home, which some dairy farmers are doing. What a gas!
More on rockets: SpaceX Says Feds Are Being Unfair About Its Rocket That Exploded
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