Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New ION Engine Passes 200KW

In a NewScientist article sent in by Shaun Saunders we read about the world's most powerful ion engine developed by the Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas. Astra has run their new engine at full power for the first time. In a recent test, the company's VX-200 engine powered to 201 kilowatts in a vacuum chamber, passing the 200-kilowatt mark for the first time.

One of the near future uses for this new engine would be to provide periodic boosts to the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS). a scaled up version ( in the 10 to 20 megawatts power range) could power astronauts to Mars in as little as 39 days vs the 6 months or longer it would take now.

One of the first order gains from these types of engines is their efficiency. Ion engines are about 25 times more efficient than conventional rocket engines. Though not strong enough to launch to orbit, the real savings would be realized when maneuvering in Earth orbit.

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