Thursday, April 17, 2008

US Getting Left Behind

England will bring Star Wars to life this summer when it launches its T5 ION engine into space for testing. The ION engine provides thrust by using the suns energy to... ah forget it. Here's how the smart people describe it.
Ion engines are an "electric propulsion system". They make use of the fact that a current flowing across a magnetic field creates an electric field directed sideways to the current.

This is used to accelerate a beam of ions (charged atoms) of xenon away from the spacecraft, thereby providing thrust.

They say the IONs being pushed out the engine are travelling so fast they act as a sort of atomic sandblaster, knocking atoms off the surface of anything they hit.

The techonology will one day be used to propel spacecraft to distant planets. Now that's pretty cool!

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