NASA Is Working On The Design Of A Radical New Engine That Could Help Humans Get To Mars One Day

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In a major step forward in the quest to get to Mars, NASA has teamed up with Aerojet Rocketdyne to work on a groundbreaking new ion propulsion engine that may help humans travel to Mars one day.

The engine will use a Hall thruster and will employ both magnetic and electric fields so that gases such as xenon can be ionized. After these ions have been fully expelled, this will then create thrust, according to the Daily Mail.

While the levels of acceleration and thrust might be lower on this engine than they would be with chemical rockets, the bonus of this new design is that it will allow the rocket to be more fuel efficient in the long run, and will also be much cleaner.

To build this new ion propulsion system that could carry humans to Mars, NASA has award $67 million to Aerojet Rocketdyne to help them create the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS).

It is hoped that this new design will help NASA to achieve optimum fuel efficiency so that it will be 10 times more efficient than traditional chemical propulsion technology. It should be noted that the Hall thruster has already been proven to perform well and is currently used for putting satellites in orbit in the right spots around Earth.

With the strongest Hall thruster in orbit right now running at 4.5 kilowatts, Aerojet Rocketdyne is currently working on a 13-kilowatt Hall thruster. As company CEO Eileen Drake explained, the creation of this new ion propulsion engine could have a brilliant future in the race to get humans to Mars.

“By staying on the cutting edge of propulsion technology, we have positioned ourselves for a major role not only in getting back to the Moon, but also in any future initiative to send people to Mars. AEPS is the vanguard for the next generation of deep space exploration and we’re thrilled to be at the mast.”

Engineers are now working on the finalization of their design and will then have a critical design review (CDR) conducted, after which the project will then hopefully be given the go-ahead for production. Once produced, the AEPS thrusters may then be utilized for NASA’s lunar orbiting outpost, known as Gateway.

Once Aerojet Rocketdyne is given the approval by NASA to produce their special new ion propulsion engine, it could bode very well for the future of space exploration and, of course, the race to get to Mars.