November 28, 2021

Beyond Going Long

Complete UK News World

Our trump in space. Ion thrust will change everything, last for years without interruption, and these rockets have incredible efficiency

Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to leave Earth and reach orbit initially without classic rocket engines that burn hundreds of tons of fuel. However, in space, the situation is already fundamentally different and the ion drive begins to push more and more to the front.

China is making great strides in it, we will use it on the new space station in lunar orbit, and it can operate continuously for thousands of hours, even years. But is it possible to expand, strengthen and thus speed up this human transport to Mars, for example?

How does an ion drive work?

There are many types of this type of drive and they can use different types of fuel. In general, it is a device that produces thrust by accelerating ions to very high speeds using electricity, NASA explains.


As with conventional rocket engines, the higher the velocity of the particles at the output, the higher the specific pulse, which indicates the efficiency of such a thrust.

Although ion propulsion achieves a specific thrust that is incomparable with conventional chemical rockets, it has its own drawbacks. The main disadvantage is that such a high direction cannot be developed. While rocket motors have no problem reaching several hundred kilonewtons, ion nozzles are usually on the order of mN, up to a total of newtons.

The choice is really wide

In general, the ion drive is divided into electrostatic and electromagnetic. While electrostatic law mainly uses Coulomb’s law and accelerates ions in the direction of the electric field, the electromagnetic field uses the Lorentz force for this.

Technicians built ion propulsion in 1951. Source: NASA

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Electrostatic ion drive is also divided into grating ion nozzle, also known as electrostatic ion drive, Hall nozzle, and finally FEEP (field emission electrostatic propulsion), which we have not yet used in actual operation.

On the other hand, electromagnetism, also known as plasma, is divided into pulse induction nozzle, ferromagnetic nozzle and many others, including the important VASIMR – it has the ability to combine the advantage of a specific high pulse with a higher thrust and is currently under development.


The strongest is in the hands of NASA
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