The path not taken.
- Oct 9, 2009
- Reaction score
In a world-first, an ESA-led team has built and fired an electric thruster to ingest scarce air molecules from the top of the atmosphere for propellant, opening the way to satellites flying in very low orbits for years on end.
For the first time, the European Space Agency has tested a novel air-breathing electric thruster that could allow near-Earth orbiting satellites to stay in space almost indefinitely.
While ion thrusters are a promising propulsion method for future spacecraft, their working life is limited by the amount of propellant they can carry. Now, scientists at ESA and Italian space company SITAEL have test-fired a new type of "air-breathing" electric thruster that could keep satellites…