backtop


Print


An artist's conception of BepiColumbo in orbit around Mercury

A test of NASA's NSTAR ion engine
Probe to use advanced "Star-Trek" type engine

Few space propulsion technologies have generated as much recent interest as the ion engine. This weekend, the ESA announced it will it an advanced ion thruster to propel an upcoming probe to study the planet Mercury.

The mission is named BepiColumbo after Giuseppe Columbo, a pioneering scientist in the study of Mercury. It will launch in 2013 and arrive six years later. BepiColumbo will be the ESA's first mission to the hot regions of the solar system well inside the Earth's orbit. While approaching Mercury, the spacecraft will have to endure extremely hot temperatures on its sun-facing side, and extremely cold temperatures on the side facing away from the sun.

One of the primary goals of the mission is to discover whether pockets of water ice exist on Mercury's cold, shadowed side.

The ion engine will be built by Astrium, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS). It uses an electric field to propel ions, or electrically-charged atoms of xenon gas to extremely high velocities, giving it an efficiency far above that of chemical-based engines. Its performance, if converted into earthly units, would equate to 17.8 million miles per gallon.

Electro-propulsion specialist Howard Gray says, "Ion propulsion will be a key technology for a series of future long-distance exploration missions. Today's agreement puts British scientists and engineers in a strong position in Europe to take a lead role in adopting these systems for future spacecraft."





"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton






Most Popular ArticlesThe Best 4K Monitors
July 15, 2017, 6:30 AM
HP 280 G2 MT Desktop PC
July 16, 2017, 6:47 AM
Dell XPS 27 – Large Screen PC AlO with High-End Performance
July 10, 2017, 7:22 AM
iPhone 8 – OLED Screen & 3D Laser Tech
July 14, 2017, 7:45 AM
Comparison: Rock64 vs Raspberry Pi 3
July 11, 2017, 6:53 AM

Latest Blog Posts






botimage
Copyright 2017 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki