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Saturday, May 28, 2011

A new ion engine ready to fly into space

NASA has completed started in June 2005 test propulsion system that operates on the ionized gas. Now it is possible to equip a spacecraft, dispersing them to unprecedented speeds.

 Often appearing in science fiction ion engines were put into practice in the 70's. Pull them created by the acceleration of the ionized gas in the electrostatic field.
The advantage of such control as compared to traditional chemical solutions is a high efficiency, namely the ability to overclock the device to tens of kilometers per second at a low fuel consumption. True, this is already happening in outer space for long hours of work of the ion engine: its front traction is low. Therefore, as a basic system that rotates the spacecraft, this scheme started using recently.
A pioneer of ion movement has become an American unit Deep Space 1, launched in 1998. It was followed by European and Japanese probes and the latest big project for today was an automatic interplanetary station Dawn, sent by NASA to study the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.
Ion engine Dawn and became a model for creating a xenon system NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT). The developers of the Research Center Glenn and company Aerojet modeled a variety of missions, which may have such control.
Since 2005, NEXT has worked 35.5 thousand hours, which is 5 thousand more than the previous record. The experiments took 600 kg of xenon. Based on the test model engineers have designed the propulsion system of several ion engines, whose service over 6 years, and now NASA is only to choose in what missions will be more convenient to exploit the development. Perhaps, here and useful space program, proposed by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States in the near decade?

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