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Solar-Electric Propulsion Thruster Test Firing (Image)

•, Mark Hoffman
 It uses xenon ions for propulsion, just like an earlier version of this solar-electric propulsion engine that has already been flying on NASA's Dawn mission to the asteroid belt.

The ion thruster is powered by large solar panels. The power ionizes the fuel (Xenon) and then accelerates it with an electric field between two grids. Electrons are injected into the beam after acceleration to maintain a neutral plasma.

This engine is being considered as part of the Asteroid Initiative, a proposal to robotically capture a small near-Earth asteroid and redirect it safely to a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system where astronauts can visit and explore it.

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