Thursday, July 04, 2013

NASA Thruster Sets a New Record of 5+ Years Continuous Operation!

You read right, NASA has had an ION engine running non stop for 48,000+ hours which works out to 5 plus years of operation.  NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster project at Glenn Research Center is responsible for this extraordinary engine's core ionization chamber and  Aerojet Rocketdyne  designed and built the ion acceleration assembly.  

NASA says that the 7 kilo-watt engine can be used in a variety of projects such as deep space missions where weight is a premium.  One innovation comes in the shape of it's electric thruster unit which is powered by solar electricity which make it possible to accelerate xenon atoms  to speeds of up to 90,000 mph without the need of a reactor to generate the electric field.  

There isn't any doubt that the ION engine is hugely efficient and the NEXT engine, during it's 5 year run,  consumed apx 1,918 pounds of xenon fuel.  Less than a ton of fuel for 5 years of constant acceleration! 

Of course the pay back is what this type of engine is best at, acceleration.  The impulse may be slight, it is additive.  An engine, such as a variation on the NEXT,  under constant operation is capable of reaching speeds that would be an appreciable fraction of C, but even the present impulse of NEXT is remarkable.  

More @ and the NASA article

No comments: