Social Media Sidebar


Please sign up, comment on articles and bring your friends!

Current poll

PlanetTech is asking:

What do you think about our new web site?

Love it, indeed
Really good solution
Same as old one
The old one was better
This is a new option

Quote of the day

Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.


Thomas Edison

Ion thrusters are redrawing the boundaries for space exploration

Posted in Science on 26th Jan, 2015 04:39 PM by AlexMuller

In early March, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will enter the orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres. We’re going to see a whole new world. Eight years since its launch, and four years after visiting the second-largest object in the asteroid belt, Vesta, Dawn will be the first spacecraft to orbit two alien protoplanets in a single mission.


"Ion propulsion is taking over the industry"
That achievement is made possible by its ion engines, which are about one foot in diameter. Inside each engine, xenon atoms are bombarded with electrons to form ions. Metal grids at the back of each engine are charged to about 1,000 volts and shoot out the ions at up to 90,000 miles per hour. The thrust is minuscule. (To approximate the pressure the engines exert on Dawn, take a sheet of paper and place on it on your palm. That’s it!) But in a zero-gravity, frictionless environment, the effect of this thrust gradually builds up. At its fastest, Dawn can move at about 24,000 miles per hour. And because the ions move at such a high velocity, the engines need less propellant, making them 10 times more efficient than conventional chemical fuels.
Ion propulsion “is taking over the industry,” says John Brophy, who developed Dawn’s engine. If this all seems like something you'd see in a movie, it's probably because you already have. In Star Wars, Darth Vader’s TIE fighter is a hot rod that uses ion engines to speed through the Galactic Empire. Just like Darth Vader’s vehicle of choice, Dawn uses solar energy to feed electrons into its power-hungry engines. Each of the two solar panels is 27 feet, or the width of a singles tennis court. Unlike chemical fuels, which have to be stored in the spacecraft, these panels supply an almost inexhaustible source of energy.

Tags: spaceNASADawnionthrustCeres

Read original article » Back to category


Author: Guest
Posted: 2015-01-27
Space explorations are becoming very exciting with great new technologies and whole new worlds being discovered Reply


Recent headlines

  • Posted in Software on 2018-06-21 03:22:47
    IBM Unveils System That 'Debates' With more
    Posted in Science on 2018-06-21 03:12:27
    NASA unveils bold new plan to protect Earth from more
    Posted in Science on 2018-06-21 03:03:04
    Machine learning may be a game-changer for more
    Posted in Science on 2018-06-20 02:26:18
    Pushing the limit: could cyanobacteria terraform Mars? more
    Posted in Medicine on 2018-06-20 02:23:08
    Hospital Begins Testing VR As A Pain Relief more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-10 01:33
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-20 07:17
Spacex says China is their main competitor for more
Posted in Software on 2013-10-20 06:43
Pirate Bay Browser Clocks 1,000,000 more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-10 02:10
Google reportedly investing hundreds of millions into more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-14 03:13
Endothelial Cells Can Repair and Regenerate Organs, more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Spacex says China is their main competitor for more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Staring at Your Phone Could Be Making You Short more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Oculus Rift virtual reality headset coming to mobile, more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Delivering drugs via nanoparticles to target more

Recent Blog Posts

  • Posted by AlexMuller
    In five years quantum computing will be more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Google partners with Johnson and Johnson to make lower more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Electron holography microscope with spatial resolution down more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Lower cost advanced Nuclear power could dominate future US more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Why Hasn’t AI Mastered Language Translation? more

Login to your Account

Login to your PlanetTech Account here

Remember me

Create a New Account

You just need username and password

The following errors occured:
Verify password:
Remember me