New SpaceX Program to Take CO2 from Atmosphere, Turn into Rocket Fuel

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Monday, the company plans to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turn it into rocket fuel.

“SpaceX is starting a program to take CO2 out of atmosphere & turn it into rocket fuel. Please join if interested,” said Musk, then adding, “will also be important for Mars.”

Such a process is currently is already being used on the International Space Station (ISS), points out Sid Chambers.

According to Science Daily, carbon dioxide can be turned methane, via a carbon catalyst in a reactor.

“Known as the “Sabatier reaction” from the late French chemist Paul Sabatier, it’s a process the International Space Station uses to scrub the carbon dioxide from air the astronauts breathe and generate rocket fuel to keep the station in high orbit.”

University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science assistant professor Jingjie Wu and his students, wrote a paper detailing how it would be possible to use this exact same process on Mars, essentially creating gas stations on the red planet.

“It’s like a gas station on Mars. You could easily pump carbon dioxide through this reactor and produce methane for a rocket,” said Wu back in September.

“Right now if you want to come back from Mars, you would need to bring twice as much fuel, which is very heavy,” said Wu. “And in the future, you’ll need other fuels. So we can produce methanol from carbon dioxide and use them to produce other downstream materials. Then maybe one day we could live on Mars.”

It’s unclear when SpaceX will begin the new program, but we should find out soon.