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Sep 19, 2015

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 Saturday, 19 September 2015 Futurology Loaded

An Australian university student has reportedly developed a new kind of ion space drive that absolutely obliterates NASA’s current fuel efficiency record.Ion drives are propulsion systems that basically work by throwing particles backwards really, really fast in order to propel a spacecraft forward.

NASA’s current record holder for fuel efficiency is its High Power Electric Propulsion, or HiPEP, system, which allows 9,600 (+/- 200) seconds of specific impulse, which is pretty impressive. But the new drive developed by University of Sydney PhD student Paddy Neumann has achieved up to 14,690 (+/- 2,000), according to a Australian student newspaper Honi Soit.


What’s so innovative about the new drive is that it uses a whole new type of fuel. NASA’s HiPEP system runs on xenon gas, but Neumann’s ion drive can instead run on a range of metals, with the best results currently achieved using magnesium.

These types of metals are readily available in space junk, which means that the system could be a whole lot cheaper, and could one day be fuelled using material harvested from old satellites. If we could work out how to do that, it would make things even more affordable, as it would save on the exorbitant cost of carting fuel into space.

“Unlike current industry standard chemical propulsion devices, which operate through short, high-powered bursts of thrust and then coasting, Neumann’s drive runs on a continuous rhythm of short and light bursts, preserving the fuel source but requiring long-term missions,” write Joanna Connolly and Peter Walsh from Honi Soit. – See more at: http://www.futurologyloaded.com/2015/09/an-australian-student-has-developed-new.html#sthash.IMZO88Vl.FxLropTo.dpuf

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