Development of High-Power Solar Electric Thrusters By Nasa: NASA is building a spacecraft designed to travel about 1.5 billion miles through our solar system – using propulsion that is almost entirely solar electric.
The tiny probe, called Psyche, was named after a space rock 140 miles across in the asteroid belt that was thought to be the building block of an early rocky planet.
NASA scientists are hoping to learn more about the formation of other rocky planets similar to ours if we take a closer look.
To get there, the spacecraft is equipped with Hall thrusters, which are electric thrusters that emit a space-age blue glow. Solar panels on both sides provide electricity.
The electromagnetic fields generated by the thrusters accelerate and then eject charged xenon ions, providing enough thrust to propel the spacecraft to the outer reaches of our solar system.
This is only a small amount of force, three-quarters the amount of pressure on your hand. But given the drag-free environment of space, Psyche will eventually reach speeds of more than 200,000 mph.
According to NASA, ion propulsion thrusters have been used on previous NASA missions and satellites in Earth orbit but never beyond Moon orbit.
The technology could mean that it takes time to build up enough momentum to get anywhere fast – Manas would take three and a half years to reach its destination – but the thrusters are also extremely energy efficient.
To make the long journey, Psyche would need only 2,030 pounds of xenon, a fifth of the weight needed to power the mission using chemical thrusters.
Manas is to be launched in August 2022 from historic Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with the help of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.
It is an exciting moment and perhaps a new era in spacecraft propulsion, setting the stage for future deep-space missions powered by the Sun.
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Information Source: futurism.com/the-byte/thrusters-nasa-spacecraft-solar-powered
Img Source: Nasa.Gov