ESA’s new Automated Transfer Vehicle, Jules Verne, has recently spent 21 days in a chamber that simulated the cold, radiation and vacuum of space. And it passed with flying colours. The 20-tonne spacecraft will eventually be attached to the top of an Ariane 5 rocket in the summer of 2007, and flown to the International […]
If you’re going to fly in space, you need some kind of propulsion system. Chemical rockets can accelerate quickly, but they need a lot of heavy fuel. Ion engines are extremely fuel efficient but don’t generate a lot of power, so they accelerate over months and even years. A new thrusting technology called the Helicon […]
Researchers from the Australian National University have created a prototype thruster that could offer a new form of propulsion for spacecraft. The thruster is called the Helicon Double Layer Thruster (HDLT), and it works by passing hydrogen atoms through a magnetic field to create a beam of plasma. Like an ion engine, it’s electrically powered and very efficient – solar arrays could provide the energy to power the thruster. Other agencies, including NASA, are working on plasma thrusters, but this is the first to be proven to work with hydrogen.