Iodine Thruster Demonstration Opens Way For More Powerful, Maneuverable Spacecraft

The successful demonstration of an iodine electric thruster in space suggests the world is close to cheaper, more powerful ways to move satellites in orbit and spacecraft exploring other worlds. With low Earth orbit having become a much more dangerous place after last week’s blowing up of the Cosmos 1408 satellite, improved evasion capacity will be much appreciated.

In space, Newtonian action and reaction aren’t obscured by friction or air resistance, so to move a spacecraft you just need to fire a propellant in the opposite direction you want to go. Electric propulsion thrusters are more efficient than those powered by chemical reactions and are in increasingly widespread use. However, they’ve been…

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