New Space and Tech

AIR COMPANY Awarded Additional NASA Funding to Continue its Research & Development of Kerosene-Based Rocket Fuel

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
January 17, 2023
Filed under , , , , ,
AIR COMPANY Awarded Additional NASA Funding to Continue its Research & Development of Kerosene-Based Rocket Fuel
Air Factory

AIR COMPANY, the world’s leading carbon technology and climate innovation company, has seen its collaboration with NASA further strengthened with direct funding through a NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award.

With this funding, AIR COMPANY will make integral strides towards its carbon-negative rocket fuel for space applications on Earth, Mars, and beyond.

“As global space exploration continues to grow, so does our ability to apply our technology to help ensure that growth is sustainable,” said Gregory Constantine, Co-Founder and CEO of AIR COMPANY. “With this announcement, we want to show that at a time when there are more rockets launching into space than ever before, there are sustainable production methods that are able to fuel these rockets and help our planet at the same time by removing abundant greenhouse gasses. Innovation is at the core of our company, and we will always continue to try to tackle the hardest problems we face as humans.”

AIR COMPANY’s carbon conversion technology produces paraffins, which are the molecular building blocks for rocket fuel. Uniquely, this is done in a single step using only carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced by water electrolysis as feedstock, as outlined in a recent white paper published by the company. Coupled with direct air capture technology, of which AIR COMPANY has a patent pending, this process enables production of kerosene-based fuels using only air, water, and renewable electricity – producing a carbon-negative alternative to fossil fuels today. Engineering models for systems integration will be done in collaboration with Prof. Miguel Modestino at New York University. This technology is the same carbon conversion technology that AIR COMPANY has been using since its inception to create its consumer-based ethanol out of CO2, now to be applied to aerospace.

Both the practical requirements and physics of fueling space travel have made extensive space exploration largely unviable, which this research aims to answer. Every kilogram of any material, including food, water, people, or fuel, sent to space burns hundreds of kilograms of fuel. This leaves limited resources for a return trip to Earth or space travel beyond Mars. Beyond Earth, it enables production of stable and storable RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1) on Mars using only the Martian atmosphere (which contains 95% CO2), water, and solar photovoltaic electricity.

The technology allows for the concept of interplanetary fueling stations that not only let astronauts refuel in space, but also power Martian habitats as a chemical feedstock for further resource utilization to create the essentials needed to survive away from Earth. More specifically, AIR COMPANY has won top prizes in NASA’s CO2 Conversion Challenge to produce sugar molecules from CO2, to feed bioreactors and enable a form of ‘farming’ on Mars. This technology could allow astronauts to produce food, medicine, vitamins, and construction materials using only local resources on Mars.

“After years of research, we have developed a carbon dioxide hydrogenation process that produces paraffins, a basis for rocket fuel, in a single step using only carbon dioxide and hydrogen gasses as feedstock,” explained Dr. Stafford Sheehan, Co-Founder and CTO of AIR COMPANY, and Principal Investigator for the NASA project. “We are looking forward to using this funding from NASA to continue our development for applications in space. There are exciting implications for this technology toward the future of space exploration along with the impact it can have toward addressing climate change on Earth.”

AIR COMPANY has been working on several next-generation carbon dioxide-based fuels over the last five years. The company is best known for its award-winning consumer products AIR Vodka and AIR Eau de Parfum, which were created to serve as proof of viability for the organization’s CO2 conversion technology. From these first products, their strategy focused on high margin, low volume markets as they executed the research and development needed to efficiently scale their technology to levels that could rival today’s fossil-based chemical and fuel industries.

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AIR COMPANY is the world’s leading carbon utilization company, creating consumer and industrial products from carbon dioxide (CO2). The company’s patented and proprietary Carbon Conversion Reactor mimics photosynthesis, using only air (CO2), water and sun (renewable energy) to create carbon-negative alcohols and fuels from CO2. With three consumer products (AIR Vodka, AIR Hand Sanitizer, and AIR Eau de Parfum) brought to market thus far, AIR COMPANY is moving towards world-scale impact with other innovations to come. Amongst a number of accomplishments, AIR COMPANY has received $40MM in venture capital funding to date and won an incredible amount of highly acclaimed awards: TIME Best Inventions, Fast Company World Changing Ideas, the NASA CO2 Conversion Challenge, R&D World’s R&D 100, and most recently, the Keeling Curve Prize, among others. AIR COMPANY is the future of carbon technologies. It is redefining what a regenerative future that works with nature, rather than against it, could look like.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.