French Company Sees the Benefits of Plasma Propulsion.
The power for plasma propulsion comes from the expulsion of xenon ions at high speed, nine miles per second. The ions are created by the bombardment of xenon atoms with electrons emitted from a superheated crystal and placed in a cathode at a potential of -300 volts. Mixed together, they form a plasma, accelerated by an electric field. Then the electric field is crossed with a magnetic field, the ions and electrons are driven in a circular movement, increasing the likelihood that they will collide and the efficiency of the thruster.
For now, plasma propulsion is limited to small thrusters that control satellite altitude, but SNEGMA officials hope that, within five to 10 years, they will be able to make higher powered engines that can put satellites into orbit. "It is possible that we will be able to eliminate all liquid fuel on certain satellites, nearly doubling their payload," said Dumazert. Scientific probes, such as Smart 1 from the European Space Agency that will visit the moon sometime in the next few years, will use plasma to the exclusion of all other technologies.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Baker, A. Duffy|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2001|
|Previous Article:||Testing the Effects of Sonar on Sea Life.|
|Next Article:||Swiss Corporation Seeks to Make Mine Disposal Safer.|