Will future spacecraft fit in our pockets? - Dhonam Pemba
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Due to Earth’s gravity and atmosphere, big powerful chemical rockets are needed to launch from the Earth’s surface. However, chemical rocket engines run out of fuel before they can reach their maximum attainable speed. Ion thrusters have very high specific impulses but low thrust, which means they are not powerful, but can provide propulsion for a very long time. They are good for deep space travel because their fuel can last a very long time, which allows them to propel spacecraft to very high speeds with low fuel. Although Ion and Electric propulsion has today become accepted technology powering space missions like the Dawn spacecraft towards the asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres, this technology wasn’t popular 15 years ago. Check out “Frequently Asked Questions About Ion Propulsion,” to get some answers to your potential questions.
Deep Space One was launched October 24, 1998 to test out high risk, but high reward technologies. Its success pioneered ion-propelled spacecraft missions. Want to learn about Future Spaceship Power and Propulsion? Watch the linked documentary.
Today, not only are researchers looking for new ways to develop ion and electric thrusters to propel large spaceships into deep space, but they are also developing small thrusters the size of sugar cubes to drive CubeSats, provide precise maneuvers, and offer altitude and repositioning control. NASA’s Game Changing Development Program advances technologies that may lead to new ideas and techniques for space missions and other initiatives. Visit the site! Then, visit the Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and see the latest development ideas for microspacecraft.
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