Ion Engines ready to take us "where no man has gone before"!

LazyLion

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http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/new-ion-engine-sets-thrust-record/

New Ion Engine Sets Thrust Record
January 25th, 2008

An ion engine has smashed the record for total thrust in a NASA test. The successful test means the engine could be used in future NASA missions.Ion engines work by accelerating electrically charged atoms, or ions, through an electric field, thereby pushing the spacecraft in the opposite direction.
The thrust they provide at any given moment is very small, roughly equal to the force needed to hold up a sheet of paper against Earth’s gravity. But they can operate continuously in space for years using very little fuel, ultimately providing a much bigger boost than a chemical rocket.

The Dawn mission, which launched on Thursday, is equipped with NASA’s first generation of ion engines, called NSTAR. Dawn’s three NSTAR engines will allow it to reach the asteroid belt and park in orbit around two different asteroids.

The agency has also been testing a more advanced ion engine, called NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT), which generates 2.5 times as much thrust as an NSTAR engine.

Now, NEXT has broken a record, providing more “total impulse” than any previous ion engine. Total impulse is a measure of the overall acceleration that an engine would provide to a spacecraft. It is the result of multiplying the engine’s thrust by how long it fires.
Record fuel

The NEXT engine has now been fired for over 12,000 hours (500 days), providing more than 10 million Newton-seconds of impulse, more than any ion engine has ever achieved.

During this time, it has processed more than 245 kilograms of fuel in the form of xenon gas, a record amount for an ion engine. The amount of fuel an ion engine can handle before wearing down is critical, since ion engines on spacecraft need to fire for years at a time.

Previous estimates have suggested NEXT engines could safely handle 450 kilograms of fuel in their lifetime. NSTAR is rated for only 150 kilograms of fuel throughput, although one NSTAR engine has processed 235 kilograms of fuel in a previous test.

“This test validates NEXT technology for a wide range of NASA solar system exploration missions, as well as the potential for Earth-space commercial ventures,” says NEXT principal investigator Mike Patterson of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, US.

NEXT could power a mission to Saturn’s moon, Titan. It would require about 20 kilowatts of engine power to get there if the mission included both an orbiter and a lander. “We could do that with an array of three thrusters, plus a spare,” NEXT project manager Scott Benson of Glenn told New Scientist.
Star Wars

Although NSTAR and NEXT both use xenon gas as a propellant, NEXT accelerates the xenon ions more efficiently, providing up to 236 milliNewtons of thrust compared to NSTAR’s maximum of 92 mN. The ion engines used on Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft to the asteroid Itokawa use 22 mN, while those used on the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 Moon probe operated at 70 mN.

NEXT can also vary its thrust by a factor of 11, as compared with NSTAR’s factor of five. This means it can throttle down to lower levels as it travels farther from the Sun and receives less sunlight, allowing it to operate at greater distances than NSTAR.

Although ion engines are just beginning to see regular use on scientific probes, they have been a common sight in science fiction for many years. Dawn spacecraft engineer Marc Rayman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, reminded journalists at a recent press conference of the ion engines used in the Star Wars movies.

“If you remember the TIE fighters that Darth Vader and the Evil Empire used to fight the rebel alliance, TIE stood for ‘twin ion engines’,” he said. “Well, Dawn does the Star Wars TIE fighters one better because we use three ion engines.”
 

zamicro

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I marvel at how fiction becomes reality aka Arthur C. Clarke in 2001: A Space odyssey
 

Messugga

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Acceleration is totally dependent on the mass of the object being accelerated. To accelerate anything large with that sort of thrust...it'll take quite some time to get up to any sort of useful velocity.
 

Moederloos

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Acceleration is totally dependent on the mass of the object being accelerated. To accelerate anything large with that sort of thrust...it'll take quite some time to get up to any sort of useful velocity.

Yeah - but how long? If it takes 10 years to get up to 1/3 light speed, the nearest stars are "only" 30 years away (10 years to get up to speed, 10 years of coasting, and 10 years to decelerate on the "flip" side).
 

Messugga

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Well, acceleration = f/m
f = 0.236N
.'. a = 0.236m/s^2
0.236*60*60*12
= 10195.2
So say we have something weighing 1kg, to make the math simple.
Quick calculation gives a result of ~10200km/h if the engine is fired for all 12k hours. That's maximum velocity. Now, that's for a mass of 1kg. The fuel required for firing the engine for that long weighs several hundred kilograms. Taking the mass of the fuel into account makes things complicated as it'd be a function of time and the longer the engine has been running, the lighter the entire thing will weigh. I'm thinking this tech is only supplementary to other propulsion systems but I have no idea what the sort of things they'd want to transport, weighs nor the figures required. 20kW to get to Titan....that's not exactly a lot of energy.
 

nocilah

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Well, acceleration = f/m
f = 0.236N
.'. a = 0.236m/s^2
0.236*60*60*12
= 10195.2
So say we have something weighing 1kg, to make the math simple.
Quick calculation gives a result of ~10200km/h if the engine is fired for all 12k hours. That's maximum velocity. Now, that's for a mass of 1kg. The fuel required for firing the engine for that long weighs several hundred kilograms. Taking the mass of the fuel into account makes things complicated as it'd be a function of time and the longer the engine has been running, the lighter the entire thing will weigh. I'm thinking this tech is only supplementary to other propulsion systems but I have no idea what the sort of things they'd want to transport, weighs nor the figures required. 20kW to get to Titan....that's not exactly a lot of energy.

how does weight play a role in space where there is no weight?
 

Messugga

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Not weight, mass, which everything has. If something has no mass, it requires no energy to accelerate it, which would be cool but unfortunately things don't work like that.
 
P

Picard

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From ion thrusters they will next invent warp technology.

MAXIMUM WARP.
 

mercurial

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Interesting. I don't know why they just don't ask the damn aliens for their technology :D
 

hawker

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They are waiting for us to invent it. Then they will say: "GOoosh, it only took you guys 10 000 years to get there, we did it in 5, psssh n00bs"
 

Ou grote

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They are waiting for us to invent it. Then they will say: "GOoosh, it only took you guys 10 000 years to get there, we did it in 5, psssh n00bs"

Depends on how many earth years it takes for their planet to orbit their sun...
 

Devill

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