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NASA's NEXT engine  (Source:
NEXT is a seven-kilowatt thruster that receives electrical power from solar panels or a nuclear power source

NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) ion engine has broken the record for hours of continuous operation.

The NEXT ion thruster has clocked 43,000 hours of continuous operation at NASA's Glenn Research Center's Electric Propulsion Laboratory, breaking the overall record. The 43,000 hours is equivalent to nearly five years of continuous operation.

NEXT is a seven-kilowatt thruster that receives electrical power from solar panels or a nuclear power source instead of burning fuel. The electricity is then used to ionize molecules of xenon and a cathode to accelerate them electrostatically. When the molecules come out of the engine, they create thrust.

For the entire 43,000 hours of continuous operation, NEXT only consumed 770 kg of xenon propellant. The engine would offer 30 million-newton-seconds of total impulse to a spacecraft.

The NEXT ion engine is meant to send spacecraft into deep space missions further and faster with more efficiency than engines that burn fuel.

Making more efficient spacecraft has been an important goal in the space industry. For instance, SpaceX, a private California-based space transport company that was the first of its kind to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) this year, recently showed off its Grasshopper project for reusable rockets. The Grasshopper Project is a Falcon first stage with a landing gear that's capable of taking off and landing vertically. It does this by shooting into orbit, turning around, restarting the engine, heading back to the launch site, changing its direction and deploying the landing gear. The end result is a vertical landing.

Source: NASA

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By SlyNine on 1/2/2013 5:04:31 AM , Rating: 2
Speed is only relative.. It's the push of one object from another that matters. In space I could be going 10,000 mph (relative to object A). but If I push off an equally sized body at 10mph, we will move away from each other at that 10mph. So I will be going 10,005 and it would be going 9,995. But that's only relative to object A. If Object B is moving the same speed as me, after I push off each will be moving 5mph, but in opposite directions. How fast is any object going, well that just depends on what object you're basing the speeds off of.

That's why we can only see so far in space, about 13 billion light years. Because after that space is moving away from us at faster than light speeds. But you cannot really say how fast we are moving or how fast that part of space is moving.

Its the force of the separation. Not the same thing as thrusting air out the back of a jet, because in that case speed is not just "relative". There is, in affect a 0 mph when talking about jets on earth. Not with rockets in space, until we start hitting near the speed of light its all relative.

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