The 2016 Daily Mail article Radical ion rocket engine that could 'get to Mars and back on one tank of fuel' set to be tested on the ISS says:

  • Neumann Drive achieves more than 11,000 seconds of specific impulse
  • This measure of efficiency compares to 9,600 achieved by Nasa's HiPEP
  • The technology is now set to be tested on the International Space Station
  • Payload is expected to launch in 2018 and will operate in space for a year
  • Developed by Paddy Neumann while a PhD student at University of Sydney

It’s said that a radical ion engine known as the Neumann Drive could one day go to Mars and back on a single tank of fuel.

Now, the technology which has demonstrated efficiency surpassing that of even Nasa’s top efforts is set to undergo testing on the International Space Station.

The payload is expected to launch in 2018 and will operate in space for up to a year, allowing researchers to evaluate the system under real conditions.

Neumann Space has signed a contract with Airbus Defence & Space to bring their record-shattering technology to the ISS.

This ion space drive was developed by Paddy Neumann, formerly a PhD student at the University of Sydney, and can achieve more than 11,000 seconds of specific impulse.

This is a measure of thruster efficiency, and far exceeds that achieved by Nasa’s High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) system, which allows for about 9,600 seconds of impulse.

A paper on the Neumann Drive technology, co-authored by University of Sydney professors Marcela Bilek and David McKenzie, was published recently in to Applied Physics Letters.

Question: Is this still the plan? Will the Neumann drive start testing aboard the ISS some time in 2018? If so, is there any more information on when it's scheduled to arrive?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Ah, the Daily Mail, beacon of balanced and quality journalism! $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    May 11, 2018 at 9:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @GdD the article came up unexpectedly when searching for something else. I was in a rush and so just grabbed some text in front of me. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 11, 2018 at 9:42
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @GdD I'm not being sensitive either ;-) I remember asking my self "The Mail, really? Am I going to do this?" $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 11, 2018 at 11:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I like how the text lines don't really have any more info than the bullet points. $\endgroup$ May 11, 2018 at 12:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble that's typical for the Fail (except when the body text contradicts an overly-sensational headline/bullet) $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    May 11, 2018 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


2021 update: It turns out that the Neumann drive was never installed on the ISS.

Instead, Neumann Space will perform a 1st flight demonstration on a 6U Cubesat in 2022. See a more detailed answer in this answer to Was the Isp = 11,000 seconds Neumann Drive tested on the ISS? Did it work? How well did it perform?


This ion drive will be installed on the Airbus DS Bartolomeo platform as part of the FAST mission (Facility for Australian Space Testing) in mid-2019.


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