Patrick Harkness/University of Glasgow

Leaner and meaner: rockets that eat themselves

In an effort to streamline launch efficiency, researchers in the United Kingdom and Ukraine are rethinking the rocket. Made—not of a solid chamber encasing liquid fuel—but of a solid chamber that turns into fuel, the new model is designed to “eat” itself while carrying satellites into orbit, The Economist reports. Liquid fuel has long been a favorite of rocket engineers because, despite its weight, it is easier to regulate into a more constant thrust than its solid counterpart. But the new self-eating motor (above) was able to demonstrate thrust control, or “throttleability,” breaking through a major barrier for solid-fuel rockets, the scientists report in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. Although the design remains a work in progress, these autophage rockets hold great promise for sending smaller satellites skyward, the scientists say.

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