An ion engine recently smashed the fuel efficiency records of NASA. A Ph.D. student from the University of Sydney has developed a new type of ion space drive – a kind of a rocket – that could go to Mars and come back on a single tank of fuel.
The record-breaking, super-efficient engine can use a variety of metals as fuel. It can even use the metals found in space junk as a handy way to refuel…tackling the space junk problem simultaneously.
Though the engine is not too efficient in acceleration, it could possibly be used for the transportation of cargo to space ahead of manned missions or keeping satellites in their proper position in orbit.
A measure of thruster efficiency is specific impulse, often called bounce per ounce, and is measured in seconds.
The current record, held by NASA’s HiPEP (High Power Electric Propulsion) system allows 9,600 seconds of specific impulse. However, this innovative ion engine has broken the record with as high as 14,600 seconds of specific impulse…performing well above NASA’s record.