Saturday, January 20, 2018
Contact us    |    Advertise    |   Help   RSS icon Twitter icon Facebook icon
    Home  ·  News  ·  Forum  ·  Stories  ·  Image Gallery  ·  Columns  ·  Encyclopedia  ·  Videos
Find: in

NASA's ion thruster breaks propulsion records


Posted on Saturday, 21 October, 2017 | Comment icon 17 comments

Iron thrusters are much more energy efficient than chemical rockets. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
The prototype thruster could one day propel the first Mars astronauts all the way to the Red Planet.
Designed through a collaboration between the University of Michigan, NASA and the US Air Force, the X3 thruster works by accelerating a stream of electrically charged atoms to produce thrust.

During a recent demonstration of the X3 at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio, scientists managed to break multiple world records for power output, operating current and thrust.

"We have shown that X3 can operate at over 100 kW of power," said project leader Alec Gallimore.

"It operated at a huge range of power from 5 kW to 102 kW, with electrical current of up to 260 amperes. It generated 5.4 Newtons of thrust, which is the highest level of thrust achieved by any plasma thruster to date."

While ion thrusters are more energy efficient and can achieve much higher speeds than chemical rockets, they have much lower acceleration and therefore take a lot longer to get up to speed.

"You can think of electric propulsion as having 10 times the miles per gallon compared to chemical propulsion," said Gallimore. "Chemical propulsion systems can generate millions of kilowatts of power, while the existing electrical systems only achieve 3 to 4 kilowatts."

"What we would need for human exploration is a system that can process something like 500,000 watts (500 kW), or even a million watts or more."

"That's something like 20, 30 or even 40 times the power of conventional electric propulsion systems."

Source: Space.com | Comments (17)

Tags: Iron Thruster

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by pallidin on 21 October, 2017, 23:32
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator   A radioisotope thermoelectric generator(RTG, RITEG) is an electrical generator that uses an array of thermocouples to convert the heat released by the decay of a suitable radioactive material into electricity by the Seebeck effect. This generator has no moving parts. RTGs have been used as power sources in satellites, space probes, and unmanned remote facilities such as a series of lighthouses built by the former Soviet Unioninside the Arctic Circle. RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmaintained situati... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by lightly on 22 October, 2017, 16:55
Oh.   I guess I'm the one that's  .antiquated.  Thanks for the link pallidin, I learned something!
Comment icon #10 Posted by pallidin on 23 October, 2017, 6:10
Actually you're not. I was too quick to reference RTG's. The power they can produce is far less than the power required for the purposes of the OP article. My bad...
Comment icon #11 Posted by seanjo on 23 October, 2017, 8:42
It doesn't sound much, but continuous acceleration even with that small amount of energy would soon add up to very high speeds.
Comment icon #12 Posted by RoofGardener on 23 October, 2017, 18:39
True... eventually. But it would take a LONG time, and would we be able to produce sufficient electricity over that time period ?  Personally, I like Lightly's idea of the steam-powered spaceship.  Steampunk to the Stars !  
Comment icon #13 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 23 October, 2017, 19:03
Not that long. What you don't seem to be factoring in is that a conventional rocket uses up all it's fuel in minutes. Once that fuel is gone that is the acceleration over and done with, A vehicle with ion propulsion can continue accelerating for months, reaching far higher velocities than a feasible with a conventional chemical rocket. For interplanetary missions, which take months anyway, ion propulsion is far quicker than chemical rockets. It is for precisely this reason that both of JAXA's Hayabusa sample return missions to asteroids and NASA's Dawn asteroid mission have all used ion propul... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by seanjo on 23 October, 2017, 19:18
Not as long as you'd think. Say it accelerates a ship at  0.5 m/s (walking pace is around 1.5 m/s) in one minute you are travelling at 30 m/s, in one hour you are travelling at 1800 m/s that's 4000 odd MPH...8000 odd after two hours...   Erm, I'm not vouching for my maths, I did this on the fly...
Comment icon #15 Posted by paperdyer on 24 October, 2017, 16:38
Does anyone remember Scotty's remark about ion drives?  If my mother....she'd be a ...
Comment icon #16 Posted by seanjo on 25 October, 2017, 10:33
This is in use technology I believe, all they are doing is making it better.
Comment icon #17 Posted by schroedingerscat on 26 October, 2017, 0:58
Ion engines might have their uses, but I don't think manned spaceflight is one of them; let's take an example.  The Mercury space capsule had a mass of 1400 kg, and its successor, the Gemini, had a mass of 3800 kg.  The astronauts were confined to their couches for the duration of the mission, ate baby food from toothpaste tubes, and crapped in diapers.  Let's assume we could provide room for a crapper and a microwave for a vehicle mass of 5000 kg; Isaac Newton told us that F=ma, and since we know the force of this motor (5 n), and the mass of our vehicle (5000 kg), we can rearrange to get a =... [More]


Please Login or Register to post a comment.


  On the forums
'Brother mummies' had different fathers
1-20-2018
Scientists have finally solved the mystery of the relationship between two 4,000-year-old mummies.
Saturn's moon Titan has its own sea level
1-19-2018
Just like the oceans here on Earth, Titan's hydrocarbon seas and lakes lie at an average elevation.
'Haunted' painting has sold in New Zealand
1-19-2018
An acrylic painting purchased from an antique store has earned itself something of a haunted reputation.
Mini nuclear reactors could be used on Mars
1-19-2018
The Kilopower project has developed a type of miniature nuclear fission reactor for use on other worlds.
Featured Videos
Gallery icon 
Brian Cox talks to Buzz Aldrin
Posted 1-18-2018 | 1 comment
Professor Brian Cox discusses space travel with legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
 
Typing vs handwriting
Posted 1-16-2018 | 2 comments
Is typing on a computer better or worse for your memory then writing on paper ?
 
Can coding help avoid job automation ?
Posted 1-12-2018 | 0 comments
Taking up coding and technical skills to avoid automation may be counter-productive.
 
Dinosaur death match
Posted 1-8-2018 | 0 comments
A look at how various dinosaurs might have fared against the predators of their day.
 
Best records of 2017
Posted 1-4-2018 | 0 comments
A look back at some of the most bizarre and amazing world records of the last year.
 
 View: More videos
Stories & Experiences
Strange feeling
1-18-2018 | Different places
 
Unexplained voices
1-18-2018 | United States
 
First college apartment
12-31-2017 | Daytona Beach, FL
 
The night my niece was murdered
12-19-2017 | Delhi, Louisiana
 
Mysterious Headlights
12-10-2017 | Morgan County, Alabama
 
Possibly a child ghost
12-10-2017 | Edgewater, Maryland
 
True story about black-eyed kids
12-10-2017 | Portland oregon
 
Alien or paranormal encounter ?
12-10-2017 | United States
 
Ouija board experience
12-10-2017 | Ohio
 

         More stories | Send us your story
 
Top   |  Home   |   Forum   |   News   |   Image Gallery   |  Columns   |   Encyclopedia   |   Videos   |   Polls
UM-X 10.7 Unexplained-Mysteries.com © 2001-2017
Privacy Policy and Disclaimer   |   Cookies   |   Advertise   |   Contact   |   Help/FAQ