This Week in Science

Apr 24, 2016

You want to have a reference point of where to find the best recent scientific and technological breakthroughs? Here they are, in the weekly science compilations. Share them with friends and family, online or in real life. Enjoy!

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2 comments on “This Week in Science

  • NASA just announced it’s building an electric propulsion system to take us into deep space

    @link – Electric propulsion isn’t exactly new – NASA says it’s been working on it for more than 50 years – but as with any technology, it needs to be made cost-effective, safe, and stable before it can be used in a mission. By awarding the new three-year contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne, NASA is hoping to to speed along the process.

    As this quote says, electric propulsion is not new.

    Past Ion Propulsion

    The NASA Glenn Research Center has been a leader in ion propulsion technology development since the late 1950s, with its first test in space— the Space Electric Rocket Test 1— flying on July 20, 1964. From 1998 to 2001, the NASA Solar Technology Application Readiness (NSTAR) ion propulsion system enabled the Deep Space 1 mission, the first spacecraft propelled primarily by ion propulsion, to travel over 163 million miles and make flybys of the asteroid Braille and the comet Borelly.

    Current Ion Propulsion

    Ion thrusters (based on a NASA design) are now being used to keep over 100 geosynchronous Earth orbit communication satellites in their desired locations, and three NSTAR ion thrusters that utilize Glenn-developed technology are enabling the Dawn spacecraft (launched in 2007) to travel deep into our solar system. Dawn is the first spacecraft to orbit two objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: the protoplanets Vesta and Ceres.

    Then there is also the VASIMR electric rocket engine which has working prototypes.

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