NASA's NEXT ion thruster runs five and a half years nonstop to set new record

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Forum topic by Dan'um Style posted 06-30-2013 12:44 AM 875 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan'um Style

14179 posts in 4220 days

06-30-2013 12:44 AM

Found this article and found it fascinating. Figure to share it with my BUDS.

On Monday, NASA announced that its advanced ion propulsion engine operated for 48,000 hours, or five and a half years – and that’s without stops for fuel or coffee. Developed under NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) project, the engine now holds the record for the longest test duration of any type of space propulsion system.

NEXT is a solar electric propulsion system where electricity from the spacecraft’s solar panels is used to power a a 7-kW class ion thruster. In this, particles of xenon gas are electrically charged and then accelerated to speeds up to 90,000 mph (145,000 km/h). Such thrusters have already been used on spacecraft, such as NASA’s Dawn probe, and engineers are very interested in them because of their much higher performance compared to conventional chemical rocket engines.

The test was carried out in a vacuum chamber at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where the NEXT thruster continually fired day and night. In December, it had already passed 43,000 hours of operation and when it passed 48,00 hours it had consumed 1,918 lb (870 kg) of xenon propellant and generated a total impulse that would take over 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) of conventional rocket propellant for comparable applications.

NASA hopes to use NEXT or some version of it in a wide range of deep space missions. The thrust made by an ion engine is tiny compared to a chemical rocket, but its very high efficiency combined with its ability to fire for years on end means that it can build up astonishing speeds over time. As for the test model, it is on its way to a well-deserved retirement as it is switched off.

“The NEXT thruster operated for more than 48,000 hours,” says Michael J. Patterson, principal investigator for NEXT at Glenn. “We will voluntarily terminate this test at the end of this month, with the thruster fully operational. Life and performance have exceeded the requirements for any anticipated science mission.”

Source: NASA

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

4 replies so far

View Dusty56's profile


11830 posts in 3925 days

#1 posted 06-30-2013 12:58 AM

So cool ! Thanks for sharing this with us : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View lew's profile


12498 posts in 3992 days

#2 posted 06-30-2013 01:00 AM

Cool Beans, Dan. I wish I could live long enough to see manned deep space exploration.

When I was little, my Mom introduced me to a gentleman that was 1 year old on the day Abraham Lincoln was shot and he lived to be 99. Can you imagine the changes he experienced in his lifetime!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3528 days

#3 posted 06-30-2013 01:37 AM

I wish they’d put the “impulse” into something laypeople could understand, like, “a probe weighing X equipped with this engine would have achieved a speed of Y and would have travelled Z miles”.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Grumpy's profile


24809 posts in 4088 days

#4 posted 06-30-2013 05:53 AM

Good one Danny Boy. I wonder what we will be using in20 years time?.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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