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Questions tagged [ion-thruster]

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

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Would that asteroid transport be possible?

I did the mistake of watching an episode of the Science Fiction series "For All Mankind". There they are trying to catch an asteroid in order to bring it back to Mars. I know this series is ...
Tobias Reich's user avatar
5 votes
4 answers
151 views

In a gridded-ion thruster, why are the ions accelerated away from the thruster and do not just stay close to the negatively charged grid?

Basically, if the ions are accelerated due to their attraction to a negatively charged gird at the back end of the thruster, why don't the ions just stay by the grid? How are they ejected out of the ...
lewellyn's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
177 views

How would one identify ionic thrust vs chemical thrust in an orbit transfer?

My nomenclature might be a bit off, I’m no expert but I’ve been reading to solve the question all the same. Say we detect an orbit transfer based off ephemeris records. We can get the 6 classic orbit ...
Dylan's user avatar
  • 321
1 vote
1 answer
196 views

Moon landing with ion thrusters

In Kerbal space program I built a mini cubesat (similar to NASA’s lunar flashlight probe) and managed to land on the moon only using ion thrusters. However, it was risky because it took a few tries. ...
The Rocket fan's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
178 views

Minimal vacuum system requirements to test a scale model ion thruster for a student project?"

I am planning to make a small-scale ionic thruster, however, I am not planning to invest in a vacuum chamber so I am thinking of only achieving vacuum in the plasma chamber itself, by sealing the ...
yuzhe chong's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
788 views

Advice on ionic thruster

I am a high school student, and this year our school requires us to do this Year-long project, I chose building ionic thrusters as my project's first choice. My question is, which type of ionic ...
yuzhe chong's user avatar
-12 votes
4 answers
287 views

When is the thrust produced in an ion thruster? [closed]

I have read many times that the thrust is produced when the ions leave the satellite, not while they are accelerating. I have asked the same question twice in openAI ChatGPT and it gave me two ...
Ricardo Casimiro's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
153 views

Lifetime of Krypton thruster without shielding compared to Xenon - Starlink Satellites

It is argued here (by the user uhoh) that Krypton might have a higher erosion rate on the thruster compared to Xenon. However, here is mentioned that the lifetime of Krypton-fueled thrusters might ...
Playstation_waifu's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Does Krypton or Xenon produce more thrust in a Hall-effect thruster?

I am trying to figure out if Xenon or Krypton produces more thrust for a given weight flow rate of fuel when the engine operates at the same discharge voltages. The information I find is mixed or I am ...
Playstation_waifu's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
133 views

Ion propulsion system [duplicate]

Good evening. Is there a formulae to calculate how much lift an ion propulsion system would create on earth, given factors like voltage, load, etcetera? Just a mathematical formulae. That is all I ask ...
Devon Shire's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
190 views

Is electric propulsion feasible for human spaceflight?

I have been reading a lot about electric propulsion and was wondering if it would be feasible for human spaceflight. It is really efficient but it takes a while to get to the desired speed. Would it ...
The Rocket fan's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
354 views

What's this small source of glowing blue plasma next to Psyche's Hall effect thruster for? What does it do and why does the plasma curve and connect?

PV Magazine's NASA’s 1.5 billion-mile Psyche asteroid mission will be solar-powered includes the image below which is PIA24030 and the relevent part of the NASA caption is: The photo on the left ...
uhoh's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
401 views

Why was SERT-1 put in a suborbital trajectory (4000 km apogee) while SERT-2 (1970-009A) was put in a 1000 km circular polar orbit?

Wikipedia's SERT-1 says SERT-1 (Space Electric Rocket Test) was a NASA probe used to test electrostatic ion thruster design and was built by NASA's Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn). SERT-1 was ...
uhoh's user avatar
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3 votes
3 answers
1k views

How a continuous thrust orbit transfer can be compared with Hohmann transfer?

Suppose that I have found the solution of an optimal continuous thrust planar orbit transfer from circular orbit A to orbit B by means of a numerical method. It's considered that the mission must be ...
Astrolien's user avatar
  • 569
4 votes
1 answer
203 views

Can ion propulsion system be used to maintain lunar orbit?

I am doing research on propulsion systems and it was suggested that I use an ion propulsion system for a theoretical satellite I am tasked with designing, I need to maintain orbit for three years ...
Sam's user avatar
  • 73
40 votes
2 answers
5k views

Why doesn't JWST use ion thrusters?

Since the L2 point is unstable, JWST needs engines to maintain its orbit. It uses mono-propellant engines which have given it a 5-year minimum lifespan. Why weren't ion engines used instead? Wouldn't ...
Oscar Smith's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
277 views

Thrust needed for Ion Thruster Lift off from Earth surface

I've been calculating the needed mass flow rate for a hypothetical ion rocket, lifting off from Earth's surface and propelled with a Dual-Stage 4-Grid ion thruster. Data given: mass of the spaceship /...
sea_for's user avatar
  • 91
7 votes
1 answer
724 views

Is it more expensive to send a chemical rocket from surface of Earth to an orbit or from this orbit to Mars?

I was trying to understand how cost-effective it would be to use an ion engine to power a mission. But since these propulsion systems cannot be used to leave Earth's gravitational field due to their ...
Ryan's user avatar
  • 459
3 votes
1 answer
422 views

How exactly does a magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster generate thrust?

So, I have some trouble to intuitively imagine what exactly is going on in MPDs. As I understand it, you draw a current from a cathode in the radial direction to the anode (channel wall). You ignite a ...
Rognor's user avatar
  • 31
2 votes
1 answer
259 views

Was the Isp = 11,000 seconds Neumann Drive tested on the ISS? Did it work? How well did it perform?

In 2018 answers were posted to What is Australia's Bartolomeo platform? When does it arrive at the ISS; when and where will it be attached? Will the Neumann drive start testing aboard the ISS ...
uhoh's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
142 views

What "unique control system" modulated GOCE's thrust to compensate for variable atmospheric drag? How did it know how to modulate it?

This answer to How much time did the longest maneuver last? says: The GOCE satellite mission (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) lasted 55 months (4.6 years) of largely ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
3 votes
1 answer
336 views

Are the (relatively) new "all electric" satellite buses like the Boeing 702SP really all-electric? Are RCS and momentum unloading done with ions?

This answer to Can ion Thrusters be used for Reaction Control System? got me thinking about the new "all-electric" class of commercial satellite buses. Question: Are the (relatively) new &...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
2 votes
1 answer
475 views

Can ion Thrusters be used for Reaction Control System?

As RCS (Reaction Control System) mainly required less thrust than regular rocket engine can ion Thrusters be used for attitude determination in spacecraft(Orion, Dragon), satellites or even during ...
Mukul Hatekar's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
280 views

Can external plasma enter the chamber of an ion thruster?

Suppose a satellite in LEO wich have a ion thruster, this ion thruster have a grid accelerator and in LEO there are a high density of plasma by the ionosphere, thus the particles of the ionosphere can ...
Ricardo Casimiro's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
642 views

Estimating thrust and kg fuel for a generation ship's journey to Alpha Centauri

Premise: A generation spaceship leaves Earth around the year 2060 on a journey to colonize Alpha Centauri A (ACA). In this fiction, fusion power is achieved in 2040, improved over 20 years, and used ...
Koon W's user avatar
  • 263
3 votes
0 answers
97 views

About measuring the thrust of an electric thruster

I read in some papers, for example this one: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316444395_Recommended_Practice_for_Thrust_Measurement_in_Electric_Propulsion_Testing That the best way to measure ...
STM32's user avatar
  • 101
6 votes
1 answer
1k views

How much of the world's xenon has been used in spaceflight altogether? Is it a lot? Did it cost a lot?

This answer to Why will Starlink satellites use krypton instead of xenon for electric propulsion? says: I expect they did the math, and found that overall cost was less, even with reduced thrust/watt ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
3 votes
1 answer
227 views

What JPL laboratory is this exactly, and what are the functions of these amazing-looking control panels?

The (somewhat strangely named) video clip How William Shatner Changed the World - Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA, JPL contains several shots of what looks like an ion propulsion ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
2 votes
1 answer
298 views

What are all the kinds of electric propulsion that don't qualify as ion propulsion in standard spaceflight lingo?

Comments on the meta question We have both electric-propulsion and ion-thruster tags, are they distinct? What would be good usage guidance for electric-propulsion? indicate that the term "...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
4 votes
1 answer
639 views

What does a 6-month GTO to GEO transfer look like in practice?

Based on How much time does it take to circularize a GTO orbit using ion propulsion? and the launch and entry into service dates, it takes about 6 months of continuous ion propulsion to transfer a GTO ...
ymb1's user avatar
  • 2,423
7 votes
1 answer
4k views

How many ion thrusters would be needed to accelerate a 1000 tonne craft at 9.8m/s²?

If we assembled an array of today's best ion thrusters in orbit, (the x3?) how many would be needed to accelerate a 1000 tonne spacecraft at 1g? I'm thinking Space Tug, for repeated Mars missions. ...
James from NZ's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
386 views

Ion thrusters don't need to neutralize ions?

EDITED: According to the answer of @asdfex, since the ions leave with a velocity = escape velocity so when they approach an infinite distance the net thrust is 0, this means that: The total net ...
Ricardo Casimiro's user avatar
3 votes
0 answers
36 views

Effect of delaying electron ion recombination in ion engine plumes; is a tiny additional thrust component available?

I have a follow-up question in response to this answer by @uhoh, basically asking about higher order effects alluded to in their answer. If the ion exhaust plume coming off an ion engine remain ...
alessandro's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
731 views

Thrust of ion thruster when spacecraft is charged

I read in many articles and books that the thrust of an ion thruster is equal to $$T = \sqrt{\frac{2M}{e}} I_b \sqrt{V_b} \ \ \text{[newtons]}$$ screenshot where $V_b$ is the acceleration potential, ...
Ricardo Casimiro's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
320 views

How does MEV use its "ion thruster on a stick" technology?

I was reading Politico's Biden’s space policy: One giant leap for climate change and some algorithm embedded a "Learn more about MEV; Northrop Grumman" advertisement in the story. (...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
0 votes
0 answers
236 views

How should mass specific impulse calculated for relativistic exhaust?

This answer says: Optimising for Isp only is problematic, as it's simply: $$I_{sp} = \frac{v_e}{g}$$ Which is the same as optimising for exhaust velocity. With no constraints on thrust, particle ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
10 votes
3 answers
2k views

Maximum grid voltage of ion thruster

As I read the grid voltage of an ion thruster is of the order of 1-4kV and to achieve that voltage they use electronic voltage boosters. Knowing that the thrust is proportional to the grid voltage(for ...
Ricardo Casimiro's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
424 views

Could pressurized ionized oxygen be used as a fuel source for an ion thruster?

I am wondering if a canister of pressurized oxygen could be used as a fuel source for an ion thruster. To show how this could work on a conceptual basis, please reference the following drawing: I ...
user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
305 views

Is there any possible reason to direct the electron gun specifically towards the ion trail behind an ion thruster?

This answer to Neutralization of ions in the ion thruster quotes the introduction to Wikipedia's Ion thruster: Temporarily stored electrons are finally reinjected by a neutralizer in the cloud of ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
1 vote
2 answers
803 views

Neutralization of ions in the ion thruster

I have a question about neutralizing the ion thruster, why simply does not put a positive potential on the satellite to prevent the emitted ions from returning to the satellite? is the ion current so ...
Ricardo Casimiro's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
719 views

Where can I learn to calculate the physics of an ion thruster?

I am trying to build an ion thruster, but I don’t know where to start learning the actual numbers behind one. I know how they work on a basic level, but not much more. Basically I want to be able to ...
saddlepiggy's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
42 views

Anyone know of a "N71" Hall Effect Thruster currently in production or development?

In a NASA Goddard Q&A transcript for an upcoming proposal, the NASA representative mentioned that the mission designers were considering the "N71" Hall Effect Thruster as an option for an upcoming ...
Terrance Yee's user avatar
  • 2,294
0 votes
0 answers
190 views

Ion Lifter Thrust Calculation Problem

I've recently started building an ion lifter. I tried calculating the thrust the lifter produces but I came to a value that is way to high for such a small lifter. I'm using a 40kV at 1800mA AC ...
Justin's user avatar
  • 1
4 votes
1 answer
206 views

Can you accurately control the reentry point by deorbiting with ion propulsion?

With decaying orbits, the point of reentry depends heavily on solar activity, and is very hard to predict or control. When there are things that could survive reentry and potentially be harmful, or ...
Speedphoenix's user avatar
  • 5,324
3 votes
1 answer
254 views

Could the kinetic energy in the Sun's solar wind power an ion propulsion system for an interplanetary spacecraft?

I am wondering if the kinetic energy of the Sun's solar wind could energize heavy ions to the point in which they would produce enough momentum to propel an interplanetary spacecraft. To help ...
user avatar
0 votes
0 answers
170 views

Why was circa 600 volts used for DAWN's ion propulsion?

This answer estimates that the DAWN spacecraft's solar-electric propulsion accelerated about 3 milligrams of Xe+1 per second, using roughly 1350 Watts of electrical power. I estimate that 3 mg/sec of ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
1 vote
1 answer
326 views

For a DAWN-like solar-electric deep space mission, would using propellant particles much heavier than xenon atoms be beneficial?

For deep space missions using ion propulsion that are power-limited, this answer explains that a large mass/charge ratio ($m/q$) species is desirable. The solar-electric propulsion system used by the ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
0 votes
1 answer
143 views

Was DAWN's power-limited propulsion really limited by power used to accelerate the ions?

The discussion here uses the DAWN mission as a reference for the argument that the power used to accelerate the ions is what's important. I'm curious how many watts were actually used to accelerate ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
8 votes
3 answers
3k views

Have light gases like hydrogen or helium been explored for ion propulsion?

This answer and discussion in comments below this answer mention that for an ion of mass $m$ and charge $q$ accelerated by a voltage $V$ the momentum it receives (impulse) is $$p = \sqrt{2mqV} = \...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
2 votes
1 answer
235 views

Using recent technology, how much electrical power could a nuclear reactor launchable by a low-level heavy-lift vehicle be developed to produce?

The main purpose behind asking this question is to ascertain the potential power-to-weight ratio of reactors built using modern-derivative technology (i.e. either Generation III derivatives or ...
Grant Hartlage's user avatar