Ion engine, c 1990s.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 25cm x 32cm

Ion engine, c 1990s.

Richardson, Claire

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Ion engines, such as this UK 25E example, use an electrical field to accelerate and then expel high-velocity gas ions. The UK 25E engine generates a gentle thrust by extracting and accelerating an ion beam from a plasma of xenon ions created in its discharge chamber. The thrust is small compared to a chemical combustion engine, but ion propulsion is highly efficient, requiring les fuel to be carried, making it ideal for powering deep-space misions. NASA succesfully tested its Deep Space 1 ion engine in 1998-1999, and plans to use ion propulsion on the Dawn spacecraft, which is planned to be launched in 2006 on a mision to the asteroids Ceres and Vesta.



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