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2003 News Articles
Ion Engine Test Exceeds Expectations
8/1/03

The future is here for spacecraft propulsion and the trouble-free engine performance that every vehicle operator would like, achieved by an ion engine running for a record 30,352 hours at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Ion Thruster
An ion thruster is removed from a vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, by engineers John Anderson, left, and Keith Goodfellow, following almost five years of testing.

The engine is a spare of the Deep Space 1 ion engine used during a successful technology demonstration mission that featured a bonus visit to comet Borrelly. It had a design life of 8,000 hours, but researchers kept it running for almost five years, from Oct. 5, 1998, to June 26, 2003, in a rare opportunity to fully observe its performance and wear at different power levels throughout the test. This information is vital to future missions that will use ion propulsion, as well as to current research efforts to develop improved ion thrusters.

Ion propulsion will be used to propel the Dawn spacecraft when it launches in 2006 to orbit Vesta and Ceres, two of the largest asteroids in the solar system.

Click here for the full press release.


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