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Ion Thruster Operates for Five Years

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NASA Thruster Achieves World-Record 5+ Years of Operation

CLEVELAND -- A NASA advanced ion propulsion engine has successfully operated for more than 48,000 hours, or 5 and a half years, making it the longest test duration of any type of space propulsion system demonstration project ever.

The thruster was developed under NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Glenn manufactured the test engine's core ionization chamber. Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif., designed and built the ion acceleration assembly.

The 7-kilowatt class thruster could be used in a wide range of science missions, including deep space missions identified in NASA's Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

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NASA Thruster Achieves World-Record 5+ Years of Operation

A friend at work showed me an article about this a month ago. It makes me ridiculously excited for the future! It seems like we've been technologically stale in the propulsion department for some time now...this is like a breath of fresh air

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It seems like we've been technologically stale in the propulsion department for some time now...this is like a breath of fresh air

Ion propulsion is hardly a breath of fresh air, it is a VERY old idea.

he first person to publish mention of the idea was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1911. However, the first documented instance where the possibility of electric propulsion is considered is found in Robert H. Goddard's handwritten notebook in an entry dated 6 September 1906. The first experiments with ion thrusters were carried out by Goddard at Clark University from 1916–1917.

Source: Wikipedia

It is, however, an old idea whose time has finally come. Japan's Hyabusa 1 asteroid mission, launched in 2003 used ion propulsion as did European SMART mission to the Moon (launched in 2006). NASA's Dawn, currently on it's way from the asteroid Vesta to the dwarf plant Ceres uses ion propulsion. An increasing number of commercial communications satellites also now employ ion propulsion instead of chemical thrusters for station keeping.

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The N.E.X.T. Thing for Space Travel

The NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster or NEXT is an advanced Ion propulsion system developed at Glenn Research Center. Its unmatched fuel efficiency could give a real boost to future deep space exploration missions -- extending the reach of NASA science missions and yielding a higher return on scientific research.

Credit: NASA

Source: NASA - Multimedia

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