The Most Powerful Ion Engine Ever Built Passes the Test

Image of the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) inside a vacuum chamber at NASA’s Glenn Research Center during recent qualification testing, which was deemed a success. (Credit: NASA/Jef Janis)

NASA and aerospace company, Aerojet Rocketdyne, have successfully completed qualification testing of the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS), which is a 12-kilowatt, solar electric propulsion (SEP) engine being built for use for long-term space missions to the Moon and beyond, and AEPS is being touted as the most powerful electric propulsion—also called ion propulsion—thruster currently being manufactured. For context, 12 kilowatts are enough to power more than 1,330 LED light bulbs, and the success of these qualification tests come after NASA announced the beginning of qualification testing in July.

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A Last-Minute Addition to the Solar Orbiter Allows it to See More Deeply into the Sun’s Atmosphere

A clever astronomer made a last minute hack to the Solar Orbiter's Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, allowing it to capture better images. Image Credit: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI Team; F. Auchère et al (2023); Solar disc: NASA/STEREO

Spacecraft instruments are highly specialized and can take years to design, build, and test. But a last-minute hack to one of the instruments on the ESA’s Solar Orbiter has allowed the spacecraft to take some difficult observations it would otherwise have been unable to take.

It’s all because of one astronomer and an instrument door.

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What Does Micrometeoroid Damage do to Gossamer Structures Like Webb’s Sunshield?

Sunshield test unit on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is unfurled for the first time at Northrup Grumman. Credit: NASA

Tiny little bullets flood the solar system, each micrometeoroid a potential hazard. New research has found that the James Webb Space Telescope’s thin sunshields, and future inflatable spacecraft, may be at risk.

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If Launched by 2028, a Spacecraft Could Catch up With Oumuamua in 26 Years

In October 2017, the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua passed through our Solar System, leaving a lot of questions in its wake. Not only was it the first object of its kind ever to be observed, but the limited data astronomers obtained as it shot out of our Solar System left them all scratching their heads. Even today, almost five years after this interstellar visitor made its flyby, scientists are still uncertain about its true nature and origins. In the end, the only way to get some real answers from ‘Oumuamua is to catch up with it.

Interestingly enough, there are many proposals on the table for missions that could do just that. Consider Project Lyra, a proposal by the Institute for Interstellar Studies (i4is) that would rely on advanced propulsions technology to rendezvous with interstellar objects (ISOs) and study them. According to their latest study, if their mission concept launched in 2028 and performed a complex Jupiter Oberth Manoeuvre (JOM), it would be able to catch up to ‘Oumuamua in 26 years.

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NASA has Approved a Space Telescope That Will Scan the Skies for Dangerous Near-Earth Asteroids

An artist's illustration of the NEO Surveyor, a space telescope designed to detect and catalogue NEOs. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

A lot of the threats humanity faces come from ourselves. If we were listing them, we’d include tribalism, greed, and the fact that we’re evolved primates, and our brains have a lot in common with animal brains. Our animalistic brains subject us to many of the same destructive emotions and impulses that animals are subject to. We wage war and become embroiled in intergenerational conflicts. There are genocides, pogroms, doomed boatloads of migrants, and horrible mashups of all three.

Isn’t humanity fun?

But not all of the threats we face are as intractable as our internal ones. Some threats are external, and we can leverage our technologies and our knowledge of nature in the struggle against them. Case in point: asteroids.

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