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Friday, January 30, 2004

New Ion Thruster Design

Scientists testing thruster.
Scientists testing thruster.
Credit: Australian National University.
Researchers in Australia have revealed a revolutionary design for a powerful ion drive that could be used for Mars exploration. The design, known as a helicon double layer thruster, uses heated plasma to propel ions at extremely high velocities to produce thrust. Unlike conventional ion thruster designs, however, this system has no moving parts and has safer waste products. It is also more powerful than any other design. This innovation is years ahead of NASA. With this could come longer-lived and cheaper satellites and shorter interplanetary cruises for a manned mission to Mars. Shorter time in between planets is considered crucial by many due to both the health risks to the astronauts and to working time limitations inherent in the process of going to Mars. With this drive, the trip becomes not the 6 months of Kim Stanley Robinson, but a much shorter and more manageable time.

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- posted by Brian @ 22:59 EST