Chemistry students at Carnegie Mellon and ITESM collaborate to help NASA and IMP design a next-generation fuel system for a mission to Mars.

Teacher and Classroom Hints

Classroom uses and setup

    This activity is designed as a collaborative project between 2 teams. One team gets a set of oxidants, and a standard reductant. The other team gets a set of reductants and a standard oxidant. The teams must work together to create an oxidant/reductant pair that will fuel a rocket to Mars. We suggest completing this activity in a computer lab classroom; the activity will take approximately 2 class periods to complete. Students can work in pairs with each pair being assigned to either the CMU team or ITESM team; so 4 students will work together in a group.

Hints for solving the activity

  1. Figure out the heat of reaction between the oxidants and reductants. This will involve combining data collected at CMU and data collected at ITESM.

  2. For your chosen fuel system, determine the energy in kJ given off per kg of fuel.

  3. Use the orbital simulator to determine the amount of fuel it takes to make it to reach mars. Assume a flow rate of 50kg/sec. Use your result from part 2 to determine the kJ/sec that would results from this flow rate. Then use the simulator to determine the amount of fuel needed to reach Mars.

  4. From this, determine:
    • The volume of reductant and oxidant to put in the rocket (in cc).
    • The flow rate of reductant and oxidant (in cc/sec)
    • Make sure the volumes are sufficient to fit in the rocket.

  5. Download and run the launch simulator to test your results.

Please for the solutions to this activity.


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