Ion engines are a form of electric propulsion and work by accelerating a beam of positively charged particles (or ions) away from the spacecraft using an electric field. ESA used electric propulsion on its Moon mission, SMART-1 which impacted into the Moon on 2nd September 2006. The new engine is over ten times more fuel efficient than the one used on SMART-1. Using a similar amount of propellant as SMART-1, with the right power supply, a future spacecraft using our new engine design wouldn’t just reach the Moon, it would be able to leave the Solar System entirely.
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Once ready, these engines will be able to propel spacecraft to the outermost planets, the newly discovered planetoids beyond Pluto and even further, into the unknown realm of interstellar space beyond the Solar System. Closer to home, these supercharged ion engines could figure prominently in the human exploration of space. With an adequate supply of electrical power, a small cluster of larger, high power versions of the new engine design would provide enough thrust to propel a crewed spacecraft to Mars and back.
“This is an ultra-ion engine. It has exceeded the current crop by many times and opens up a whole new frontier of exploration possibilities,” says Dr Walker.
Europeans And Australians Make Space Propulsion Breakthrough
Science Daily press releases 12 January 2006
The How and Why of Returning to the Moon
NASA To Build Lunar Base - Why The Moon?
Concept Art - NASA Moon & Mars Missions
ESA launches new initiative to foster research
A new initiative to increase interaction between ESA, European universities, research institutes & industry has just begun. Through its Networking/Partnering Initiative, ESA is offering to support research carried out by institutes & universities in advanced technologies with space applications.
Technologies developed for space often have significant spin-offs for non-space applications and some of the very advanced technologies developed by universities & research institutes, for use in industrial or domestic applications, have potential ‘spin-in’ for use in space.
Read more >> ESA launches new initiative 6th December 2006
Magnetic whirlpools feed Earth's magnetosphere 6th Dec 2006
Reaching for the stars by Plato @ Dialogues of Eide 06 Dec 2006