I know the systems being used are very new and being used in very small satellites, but if a system could be scaled up in the near future, that would certainly help keep the station afloat. Thoughts?


1 Answer 1


Ad Astra is scheduled to deliver a VASIMR 200 kW unit to the ISS if they secure funding.

It only provides 5 Newtons of thrust, at very high specific impulse ($I_\mathrm{sp}$). Due to power requirements, it will use batteries with charge capacity sufficient for 15 minutes of usage. Could be helpful, but is not clear if it will suffice for station re-boost needs.

If it uses any excess power on the station to charge its batteries, then it would be worthwhile as – if we don't count Argon gas propellant that is a consumable and would still need to be delivered to the station, but so have to be propellants for less efficient re-boost thrusters currently in use – basically a freebie.

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    $\begingroup$ It still uses propellant (argon). There is no free lunch. $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2015 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Electric propulsion does use a propellant, just very little of it... There are no propellant free systems, at least not yet. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Feb 26, 2015 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ The information to determine how helpful electric propulsion would be can likely be found at esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/ATV/… $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Feb 26, 2015 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Edited a bit to saddle that freebie horse, please check that it didn't lose a shoe with it. :) $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Feb 26, 2015 at 13:58

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