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Questions tagged [ion-thruster]

Questions about engines used in space that accelerate ions to create thrust.

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Will an array of multiple ion engines still be more efficient than a single chemical engine?

I was just thinking the other day and got this idea out of my head. I'm not an aerospace expert or anything even close to it, so please understand even if this turns out to be a really basic question: ...
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How large is a magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster? Are there any upcoming programs using it?

Magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters are an interesting proposed method for propulsion in space, but are there any upcoming programs that will use them? If not, might this be because there still serious and ...
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Is there a use case describing the need to perform xenon propellant offloading?

I can understand hydrazine offloading and the hazards associated, but I'm wondering if there is such a need for xenon offloading.
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Low-thrust spiraling to escape, is the flight path angle (gamma) at C3=0 always 39 degrees?

@MarkAdler's comment led me to ask Why would a slow spiral from a C3 of zero take about 2.4 times as much ΔV as an impulsive maneuver? which resulted in this tidy and efficient @MarkAdler answer which ...
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Is this description of the “dipole drive” and how it would work physically correct?

Comments in chat have noted the recent post in the Centauri Dreams blog titled The Dipole Drive: A New Concept for Space Propulsion. In contrast to the single positively charged screen employed by ...
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Going from LEO to lunar using only low-thrust ion propulsion - can it be done?

@SF.'s question What are the parameters of the new Iodine electrical rocket engine developed by RSC Energia? links to the short RT article 'Ten times cheaper': Russian space company testing iodine ...
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What ion engine is used by Hayabusa2?

Hayabusa2 is on its final approach to asteroid 162173 Ryugu, expected to arrive in July 2018. Like its predecessor, Hayabusa2 uses an ion thruster for deep-space propulsion, but I can't find any ...
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Which way will the Neumann drive (on the ISS) point, what will be its maximum possible thrust?

After reading the answers to: Will the Neumann drive start testing aboard the ISS some time in 2018? What is Australia's Bartolomeo platform? When does it arrive at the ISS; when and where will it ...
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Will the Neumann drive start testing aboard the ISS some time in 2018?

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 ...
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If LOX/LH2 were used in a fuel cell powering an ion engine could it provide a greater delta-v than with a conventional engine?

Question: If LOX/LH2 were used in a fuel cell powering an ion engine could it provide a greater delta-v than with a conventional engine? Conditions: Start in space in a stable heliocentric orbit (no ...
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Are any electrically propelled missions to the outer solar system being planned? If not why not?

In answering this question I discover that a probe capable of $10^{-4}$ G continuous acceleration can get to Europa (starting from LEO) in about 16 months. Assuming I haven't made a mistake in my ...
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Why doesn't the ISS use ion engines to maintain altitude?

So the ISS uses small thrusters on the Soyuz (usually) to perform occasional reboost burns to raise its orbit. This goes through, from what I can tell, around 3,500 kilos of fuel per year. Would it ...
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Ion Thruster Thrust Calculation Problem

Trying to calculate the impulse of a little ion thruster I'm putting together. An old version of it can be found here, I'll be polarizing the AC current and putting in copper nails on the next ...
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Troubleshooting a DIY Ion Thruster

Been following a Make-Magazine article on how to make your own ion thruster: https://makezine.com/projects/ionic-thruster/ Went through the tutorial step by step, not seeming to get any thrust out of ...
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Simulation of Rocket chambers like in Hall Effect Thrusters

I started learning Solidworks in hopes of being able to run simulation to study rocket chambers. Currently, I am studying the flow of plasma and its interaction with the magnetic field, but ...
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Colloidal or electrospray thrusters - any advantages over ion thrusters?

I haven't seen much about colloidal or electrospray thrusters besides that Wikipedia article and a few questions here. The idea is similar to ion thrusters in that propellant mass is broken into small ...
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Generating an electric field for a colloid thruster

I was wondering how the electric field in an electrospray thruster works to ionize particles and propel a micro spacecraft. I was thinking of possible circuits but I wasn't sure what it could look ...
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Master thesis - new research topics [closed]

I am studying Aerospace master and currently on the brim to pursue my master thesis. I would like our input on the new research trends that are going on in the space industry. I would like to do some ...
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What is the lowest altitude that an ion thruster can be used for station keeping?

What is the lowest altitude that an ion thruster can realistically be used for station keeping before its small amount of thrust is overcome by atmospheric drag? Please state your assumptions such as ...
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Is it possible to use a linear particle accelerator in deep space as propulsion?

A linear particle accelerator permits to accelerate ions to high speed and there is no need to use big, heavy magnets to divert the beam. The space vacuum remove the need of pipes, so it could be ...
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Ion engine: purpose of magnet rings

I have a question about the gridded electrostatic ion engine. In the ionisation chamber there are several magnet rings that create a magnetic field inside the chamber. But what is the purpose of ...
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In an ion thruster, does the temperature of the plasma drop after acceleration?

In the last discussion on why ion thrusters are so energy hungry(Why are Ion Thrusters so energy hungry?), people said that the system is not only supposed to ionize the gas but also heat it to ...
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Why don't Ion thrusters use exothermic reactions directly to ionize the gas and Heat up the Plasma?

Ion thrusters require a lot of energy because of their high exhaust velocities. But why can't they just pump a mixture of hydrogen and xenon into the chamber, mix it with oxygen and burn it? Doesn't ...
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Why is there supposed be a current passing through the grids in an Ion Thruster?

Recently,I've posted a question on ion thrusters. I thought that it would be enough for the grids to be charged to accelerate ions. If I have a positive plate and a negative plate, separated by a ...
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Why are Ion Thrusters so energy hungry?

Ion thrusters need a lot of energy. But I don't understand why. So, one thing I understand is that it takes a lot of energy to achieve a high exhaust velocity ( since kinetic energy is proportional to ...
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Why can't we use charged fine metal dust instead of plasma for ion thruster?

One of the things that makes ion thrusters so bulky and problematic are the magnetic shields required to protect from high temperatures right? And we have high temperatures because we use plasma right?...
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Using interstellar medium as propellant for ion propulsion

The Bussard Ramjet assumes a huge scoop picking interstellar hydrogen, compressing it into plasma, subjecting to nuclear fusion (harvesting the fusion energy of hydrogen) and ejecting the products of ...
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What limits thrust-to-weight ratio of ion thusters?

If we consider nuclear-rocket technology not feasible (whether due to technological or political limitations), the second best options for future transportation in solar system are perhaps solar-...
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What are the challenge to use atmosphere as a propellant for super low altitude (180-260 km) satellites?

JAXA is planning to launch SLATS (Super Low Altitude Test Satellites). Theses will orbit for > 2 years using ion propulsion to counteract the substantial drag at the 180-260km high altitude. They ...
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With current or near-future Cubesat propulsion technology, largest aphelion achievable?

Propulsion technology for cubesats and nanosatellites is in active development, but there are at least a few based on sound principles that are likely to be tested in the next few years. There are ...
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Could cosmic rays be produced by alien propulsion systems?

Could the cosmic radiation of heavy ions which hit us be the exhaust of advanced electric propulsion used by alien space travelers? While supernovae seem to cause part of them, much of it is far from ...
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What does a high Hall Effect Parameter mean in MPD thrusters?

MagnetoPlasmaDynamic Thrusters are plasma thrusters in which the acceleration of the fluid (plasma) is carried in a electromagnetic way. The electric field and the lorentz force are the primary causes ...
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Switching off the magnetic coils in a Hall Effect Thruster

Talking about Hall Effect Thrusters (HET), we can say that the presence of a hollow cathode is relevant to reach a good operation of the thruster. We also can plot the potential-x (trajectory of ...
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Electron buildup in Hall effect thrusters?

I was thinking about the Hall Effect Thrusters and how they are able to produce thrust. There's something that I don't understand: when the hollow cathodes emit electrons to neutralize the flow at the ...
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Thrust vectoring for ion propulsion - any plans or current research?

While most applications of ion thrust involves long "burns" with either a tiny, slow rotation or none, in the case of this question: Thrust strategy to circularize a standard GTO orbit using ion ...
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What's so special about Xenon? [duplicate]

Xenon is the most common, most popular propellant for ion engines. But AFAIK, any ionizable gas could do - the ion engine accelerates charged particles, it doesn't really care what these particles ...
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MARS-CAT; What is a Cubesat Ambipolar Thruster and how does it work?

Trying to understand ion thrusters a little, I started looking at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster#Propellants where I saw: The CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) used on the Mars Array of ...
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Thrust and rotation strategy to circularize a standard GTO orbit using ion propulsion?

The previous question How much time does it take to circularize a GTO orbit using ion propulsion? has a good, quantitative answer based on a known delta-v. But I'm wondering how would you actually ...
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Is there any application for very low thrust engines within atmosphere?

Is there any (current, or planned, or hypothesized) practical application for engines of low thrust - like, below 40N - in the atmosphere? I'm asking this in relation to the Non-vacuum ion propulsion ...
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Thrust, Specific Impulse and Power in Ionic Thrusters [closed]

I have a doubt regarding rocket engines. Now which is the most responsible factor for propulsion using a rocket engine? Thrust / Specific Impulse? Now, I need a comparison b/w three engines: MPDT1 [...
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How quickly do the Van Allen radiation belts degrade solar panels?

I heard the other day that to take cargo from Earth to a Lagrange point or the Moon using solar electric propulsion would be a problem because the Van Allen radiation belts would degrade the solar ...
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What is the highest power output ever achieved with an ion thruster?

I was curious while designing a spacecraft for doing a flyby of the solar gravitational focus. I know that power is currently the limiting factor for ion drives (since solar power and radioisotope ...
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Optimal trajectory for solar electric propulsion?

Consider using solar electric propulsion for, e.g. Earth-Mars trip, or for asteroid retrieval mission. Is there a benefit to first entering an eccentric orbit so that part of the time is spent ...
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Could chemical energy quicken ion propulsion?

Background Tsiolkovski's rocket equation says that change of speed is proportional to the exhaust velocity. Chemical propulsion seems to have a strictly limited and since long achieved maximum ...
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Modifications to impulse burn trajectory for low thrust propulsion

I have to design a space mission to Saturn as part of a course on spacecraft and system engineering. I found a suitable trajectory but, as the Δv is quite high, I would like to adapt it to Ion ...
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How large a body could a probe with ion engines land on and launch from?

Researching small asteroids up close by use of robotic probes seems like an appealing near-future mission. One option is a sample return mission that goes to one large body, another is a mission where ...
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Why do ion thrusters frequently use xenon as the reaction mass?

From skimming the Wikipedia article on ion thrusters, I notice that xenon is frequently (though not exclusively) used as the reaction mass in systems that have actually been deployed - Deep Space 1, ...
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Can ion thrusters be scaled up?

All ion thrusters are quite small. Having read through the more approachable information about them, as they use physics pretty beyond me, I don't understand what it is about them that makes it ...
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General guidelines for modeling a low thrust ion spiral?

I've been told that for low thrust ion spirals, delta V would be the difference between speeds of departure and destination orbits. For example the delta V between a 7.7 km/s LEO and a 3.1 km/s GEO ...
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Will the International Space Station's propulsion system be changed to electric propulsion?

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?