Marshall’s Methane Madness for NASA’s “Journey to Mars”

3-D Printed Methane Thruster Credit: NASA/MSFC

3-D Printed Methane Thruster

With SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin all working on methane powered boosters, NASA is a little late to the party on this one, but maybe they’re bringing the good stuff.  The Marshall Space Flight Center is testing a 4,000 lb. thrust pressure-fed methane rocket engine in anticipation of a developing larger descent/ascent engines for operations at Mars.

By using additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, designers were able to incorporate thermocouple ports along the length of the thrust chamber (pictured above.) Doing so allows extremely precise temperature measurements to aid in the design of larger engines operating off of what is still a new propellant mixture for everyone now jumping on the methane train.


Here is the caption from the YouTube video in the story at

“A thruster — the combination of an injector and chamber — roared to life in a series of tests recently at Marshall’s Test Stand 115. The distinct blue flame is produced by the thruster’s fuel, methane. Methane is a promising fuel for the journey to Mars, as it is more stable than liquid hydrogen, can be stored at more manageable temperatures and could be produced on Mars from local resources, using in-situ resource utilization. Data gathered from testing will be used to develop an optimized thruster assembly that could support engine designs for a Mars lander and many other in-space applications.
Credits: NASA/MSFC.”
Given the benefits of methane described in the caption, benefits that three forward-looking American aerospace companies are basing their future on, the story may inadvertently be pointing out what many see is a glaring inconsistency in basing the “Journey to Mars” on a 40 year extension of the already 40 year old hydrogen technology the agency wants to use to get there in the first place.
Posted in: NASA, SLS / Orion

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1 Comment on "Marshall’s Methane Madness for NASA’s “Journey to Mars”"

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  1. PK Sink says:

    Welcome to the party, NASA.

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