Nasa har udviklet en soldrevet ionmotor

Det første skridt i udviklingen af en ionmotor der kan sætte fut i udforskningen af Mælkevejen er blevet udviklet af NASA. Det er en solcelle drevet ionmotor, hvor selve brændstoffet medbringes og ioniseres. Næste fase er udviklingen af endnu større solcelleanlæg og kraftigere motorer, og sidste fase er som jeg har foreslået at man indfanger “solvind”, altså de store mangder af ioniserede partikler der udsendes fra solen sammen med elektromagnetiske bølger, og accelere dem op mens man “surfer” rundt om Solen i et stadig højere tempo. Det er målet at få et rumfartøj op på 10 procent af lysetshastighed. Og det kan gøres. Tænk på det som hvis Cern blev placeret ude i rummet, og hvor partikler der blev acceleret op samtidig gav en lille bevægelse af selve acceleratoren. Det er princippet i ionmotorer skaleret op.

Her den populærvidenskabelige gengivelse fra Yahoo Business Insider:

By the end of next year NASA hopes to start building and SEP-powered probe that will fly to Mars and start orbiting the planet in 2022.

Here’s the futuristic piece of tech that NASA is betting all its Mars chips on

Business Insider By Kelly Dickerson

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solar electric propulsion
(NASA) An illustration of what solar electric propulsion might look like.

When you’re planning a trip, one of the most important things to remember is factoring in the transportation cost. And that’s especially true for space travel.

Traveling to Mars is going to be expensive, so NASA is betting on the future development of a more efficient and less costly type of propulsion to get there.

It’s called solar electric propulsion (SEP), and it’s sort of like the Tesla version of spacecraft.
One huge advantage

SEP’s major advantage is that it’s engine uses 10 times less propellant than typical chemical propellants. Most of its power comes from solar arrays that unfurl after launching and convert solar energy into electricity to power the thrusters and any scientific instruments on board.

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unfurl solar elec prop
(YouTube/NASA)
The solar power means the spacecraft doesn’t have to be weighed down with as much propellant. This is critical because then you can load up the spacecraft with more payload, or use smaller and cheaper launch vehicles to send it on its way.

Either way an SEP craft makes a mission much more efficient, James Reuther, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, said at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C..
An efficient way to get to Mars

NASA is already experimenting with SEP, but not at the power levels needed for a craft that can propel humans to Mars.

To put it in perspective, the Dawn spacecraft around Ceres uses about 10 kilowatts of SEP. We need an SEP craft in the 100 to 200 kilowatt range to power deep-space human exploration.

The box outlined in red in the graphic below is what NASA is currently working on. We’ll need a 50 kilowatt craft to get to an asteroid, Reuthers said, and more powerful SEP systems could eventually fly humans to Mars.

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solar electric propulsion
(NASA)
To get to these higher kilowatts levels, we need bigger solar arrays, Michael Houts, nuclear research manager for NASA’s Marshall Center, said at the Mars Summit.

Right now NASA is working with ATK Aerospace and Deployable Space Systems, Inc. to build two types of huge solar arrays that can unfold like a fan or roll out like a yoga mat.

We also need better engines.

NASA’s SEP project is exploring how to better incorporate Hall thrusters (similar to ion propulsion) in place of regular rocket engines.

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hall thruster
(NASA) NASA’s high-power Hall thruster engine design.
Regular engines eat up a lot of fuel because they rely on a chemical reaction between the fuel and an oxidizer to generate thrust. Hall thrusters work by trapping electrons in a magnetic field. The field is capable of transforming the propellant on board into a trail of plasma that pushes the spacecraft forward. The small stream of ionized particles burns far less fuel than chemical rockets so the spacecraft can fly longer and farther, but also slower.

By the end of next year NASA hopes to start building and SEP-powered probe that will fly to Mars and start orbiting the planet in 2022. And hopefully some day soon a more powerful version will be carrying humans to Mars.

If not then we’ll need a new plan for cheaper space travel if landing on Mars is ever going to become reality.

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Mal 1 hour ago
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More incomplete or just false reporting by Blundering Insider. NASA has mentioned a Xenon based drive is possible for Mars but that is an iffy proposition at best. It has a very high Specific Impulse, or effective exhaust velocity, of about 3000. H2-O2 has a Specific Impulse of 455. The down size is that it has very low thrust. The RL-10B-2 (Delta vacuum) engines produce 109,890 N of thrust. The Deep Space 1 Dawn Ion Thruster generates 3 N for every acre of solar panels. Between the Earth and the Moon an Ion Engine would take much longer than Apollo. NASA has not indicated how big of a thruster would be used and how much mass is estimated so no one knows how an Ion Thruster would compare. NASA isn’t going to expose the crew to radiation any longer than they have to.

The idea it would need 1/10 the fuel is ridiculous. First it still would need chemical reaction engines for maneuvering and orbital injection. Second is that Xenon is not really that common. On the Earth it is a byproduct of separating air into oxygen and nitrogen and occurs in 1 part per 11 million. It occurs in about the same ratio on Mars but Mars has 1/17th the density of Earth’s. Getting any Xenon from Mars will be difficult so it will have to bring enough for both ways. So now it is only 1/5th the fuel and probably less.

I think the most likely engine NASA will use is Methane. Methane is found in trace amounts of the Martian atmosphere plus can be made reacting H2 with CO2. 96% of the Martin atmosphere is CO2 and there is hydrogen present in the soil and water traces.

End rant.
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Sweet Deep-Fried Ice Cream 11 minutes ago
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Uh, uranium nuclear reactors make Xenon. Iodine-135 is a fission product and it decays into xenon-135, which has a 9 hour half life. Which means the xenon must be used in a few hours or it must be discharged into space.
One of the reason for wanting uranium reactors on spacecraft is for its production of xenon.
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Scott 2 hours ago
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One good thing about MHD (magnetohydrodynamic) propulsion systems is you only need sufficient chemical rocketry to get you into low earth orbit rather than to achieve escapement, which is exactly twice the energy needed to achieve orbit. once the spacecraft is in a stable orbit, the MHD propulsion system is turned on and the spacecraft will simply spiral out of orbit and be eventually on its way. Another way to conserve chemical rocket fuel is to further develop air launches of rockets piggy-backed on high-flying jet aircraft.Launching tangentially from altitude into low earth orbit can save a tremendous amount of rocket fuel and this method is in fact being done today on unmanned rockets from private vendors.
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Happy “D” 3 hours ago
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I have come to the conclusion that NASA and commercial operators will need to cease with pouring billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man hours doing laps in low earth orbit inside the ISS should they wish to get back in the glory and discovery they once had when involved in pure science and serious manned space travel. It doesn’t matter if it is to return to the Moon to resharpen out skills at such things. Or traveling to Mars on whatever sort of spacecraft they can dream up. The only way it will ever happen is to drop the ISS program… give it to whomever wishes to keep it operating and in good repair. And then retire NASA from being the multibillion dollar weatherman of the world.
The best science NASA ever gleaned from the ISS was learned in the task of building it. Which truth be told the USA did. At least 90% of it. It was our shuttles, our long, tedious space walks and billions in launch, engineering and maintenance that made the damned thing fly.
Relinquishing our ties with ISS would also serve up a curve ball to the damned Russians as well. They have made more then enough threats about not allowing us to ride their antiquated 60’s technology (even if the junk does work) to the ISS WE BUILT and paid most of the cost for. So give um it. Without our computers, ground tracking stations, support or resupply mind you. Let them shoulder the cost. I’d bet it would be falling through the atmosphere within 5 years.
No more ISS, no more weatherman duty, get NASA and the public corporations pointing in the same direction, spending towards decidedly specific goals. Get it done, then do more. THAT IS HOW YOU FIX NASA and rid the US of the freeloading loud mouthed, ungrateful Russians. We could be on Mars in 5 years. Have a permanent Moon base in 15. The ISS is a waste, and there are weathermen for doing forecasts.
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The_Light_666 1 hour ago
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we are still learning and doing research on ISS. I think thats a bad idea to give it up.
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Joe 1 hour ago
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Yes, they just sent up two astronauts for a one year stint which will help them predict what will happen to the human body on an extended trip to Mars. We have to learn how to walk before we can run.
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Dan 23 minutes ago
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You also can’t forget about the long-term materials research going on up there. Finding the right stuff to build ships with so they can stand up to the long-term, deep space missions you desire.
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Toadaly 4 hours ago
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…why not use a thorium reactor instead? Thorium is relatively safe until the reaction begins …just don’t start the reaction until it escapes earth’s gravity. So even if it blows up on launch, no problem.
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Fred 3 hours ago
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Toadaly…..I don’t know what Thorium Reactor is, but I assume it is sort of nuclear power supply. If it practically works, it sounds simple, safe, and efficient. I think this a great idea.
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Toadaly 3 hours ago
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The concept has been used since the 70’s, though not with thorium. But thorium reactors already exist, and can be made small. (small enough to fuel a car – but that’s a bad idea for obvious reasons).
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Rick 3 hours ago
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No problem for anybody except the people who are the most qualified to make the trip worth the trouble in the first place. But Solar Sails are slooooooowwwww. The thing that’s going to make it doable isn’t being talked about yet. We’ll know it when we see it. And so will investors.
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john316 1 hour ago
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What’s wrong with making the moon habitable?
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Sweet Deep-Fried Ice Cream 2 hours ago
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NASA needs to stop avoiding nuclear energy. Nuclear energy can supplement solar when there is an emergency.
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SGK 4 hours ago
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I think the delta V isn’t in km/s, but in m/s. Ion thrusters aren’t so powerful to propel craft at 1000 gravities (claimed 10 km/s or 10,000 m/s), 1 grav (9.8 m/s) is pretty big on it’s own, especially since this is a measurement of acceleration which is an increase in velocity per second.
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Cezar 4 hours ago
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What happened to the WARP drive?!! I just read an article two days ago stating that NASA is developing a method (WARP drive) to travel into deep space with nearly the speed of light and a spacecraft can reach Mars in about four days using WARP drive! All we see from NASA now a days are articles on yahoo, no action up in space…
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alpha31cb 4 hours ago
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I saw the same thing you did and made the same observation! Isn’t that funny.
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art 4 hours ago
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Earth Climate Observation has been eating 1/2 the NASA budget for over 15 years now.

NASA is now the worlds largest thermometer and we have to take a Russian taxi to the Space Station we built.

That is why ..all talk…no space exploration.
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Happy “D” 3 hours ago
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Cezar… Many of those articles are fanciful pieces of science fiction rather then science fact. The human race has no power source or technology powerful enough to create the conditions that would bend, fold or create a wave of space. One of the most fascinating pieces I ever read was a paper written by an obscure German scientist (I cannot recall his name and don’t feel like searching) where he hypothesizes that in order for a space craft to travel at light speed and not run head first into Einsteins theories about the need of more and more energy the faster you travel, it would mean that the space craft was not the piece of the puzzle that was moving. That it was space itself that must be moved. Bottom line… anything you read or hear about such things is more theory then tangible technology.
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Duffman 3 hours ago
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Art, I’m afraid your figures are off. Even if you take all $1.8 billion allocated to Earth Science in NASA’s annual budget as climate observation/research, that only accounts for slightly over 10% of $17.6 billion appropriation. That $1.8 billion is a generous estimate. It’s likely closer to 7-8% of the total.
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art 2 hours ago
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Ok Duff… I’ll check on that .Even 10% is too much to watch ice melt and reform .
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art 1 hour ago
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NASA budget 8.51 Billion for exploration and space operations.

Earth science is 1.8 bill or 23-24 % of totlal . Check to see overlaps in operations budget .Could be aother bil or too in combined asset allocation .

24% is too much any way .
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Joe 1 hour ago
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@Happy D

Are you referring to the Alcubierre Drive? While that’s theoretically possible, we still don’t have the knowledge yet to make it work, if it’s even possible at all. It’s little more than a bunch of math equations at this point.
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Billy Mitchell 3 hours ago
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We all know the technology is already available. Even the second director of Lockheed’s “Skunkworks” Ben Rich admitted it’s not just available, but we also have the technology to travel to stars. So why doesn’t NASA just stop screwing around. Oh wait, they’re already doing it under black projects.
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Scott 3 hours ago
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Let’s just spend a few billion on some phony Mars project, that should easily take the weak American minds off the country’s financial collapse and political corruption.
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Michael 4 hours ago
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SEP is a surrender to the “Green Mentality.” Build the nuclear VASIMIR ion drive and get to Mars in six weeks, not six to nine months.
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BENK 3 hours ago
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Mars is with you in this..I’m not finding and releasing oxygen and water in amount that could sustain human life on Mars could reactivate life unknown and harmful to humans
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J 4 hours ago
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I sure wish we’d focus more on the moon right now…that is the best option to start a colony\base\laboratory and a heck of a lot closer and I’d rather accomplish it before the russians or chinese do
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rob 3 hours ago
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You just might get that Wish~J.
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JoeS 2 hours ago
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H3…That’s something that is truly useful to mankind.
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Mal 1 hour ago
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If SpaceX can land a Dragon propulsivly returning to Earth then the Dragon can be landed on the Moon and NASA thinks Mars too. No special vehicle would make it fairly easy to plan. Pit a Bigelow habitat along with some attached service modules and a few Dragons you have a mission I bet NASA could afford. To make it cheap SpaceX needs to be successful.
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Leo 3 hours ago
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Nice, lets cut funding to ghetto blacks, divert that money to NASA instead. Make it happen.
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David D 2 hours ago
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At least the Martians never riot and burn down their own neighborhoods.
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Joe 1 hour ago
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Better yet, cut out the subsidies paid to oil companies and give that money to NASA instead. That would more than double their current funding. The money that NASA gets only accounts for 0.5% of the total US budget. That’s really not much in the grand scheme of things.
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jack 4 hours ago
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Pretty cool-spitting energetic ions with “found’ electricity instead of burning some material.
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Elyse Rose 35 minutes ago
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169,000,000 miles and no spare parts and nothing ”funny” will happen .
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Daniel 3 hours ago
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Well written article. Rare these days… keep it up.
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Alex WD-1 3 hours ago
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Non-science writer + poor punctuation = glaring errors.
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DogDo101 3 hours ago
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Send me a postcard.
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activ8 4 hours ago
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Try and figure out how ufos are getting here best bet for space travel saw one the other day
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BENK 3 hours ago
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UFO use’s Fusion Power like the sun depending on the species you’re referring to the more advanced races fold space dimensionally so distance is nonexistent
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Yesman 1 hour ago
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What happen to EMdrive ?
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Dan 27 minutes ago
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We’ve actually launched and successfully used different SEP’s, so the technology is not new. Unfortunately, the EMDrive tests were just conducted in the last year, so it still has more vetting and research to go through.
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Kevin James 3 hours ago
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Dead end tech. Nuclear is the only way to go or VASMIR the EM drive.
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