BBC News reports on the recent successful launch trial of the experimental vehicle designed and built by Blue Origin, the private spacecraft company owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos.
The report says:
Called Goddard, the retro-looking development vehicle is shown standing on four legs before blasting off in a cloud of smoke from thrusters on its base. The vehicle continues to ascend for approximately 10 seconds, reaching a height of nearly 300ft (90m).
Well, looking at the videos on the Blue Origin web site, I don’t think it’s smoke at all. It looks more like ground dust to me. The interesting thing is that there really doesn’t seem to be any evidence of flame from the craft’s thrusters.
All of which has led some people to speculate that the propulsion system is using hydrogen peroxide (hair bleach!). The hydrogen peroxide reaction produces simply oxygen and water, which at the high temperature involved, is in the form of steam.