Data Analysis Penny-sized Rocket Thrusters may soon Power Satellites in SpaceMini ion thrusters are manufactured using micro-manufacturing techniques. This image shows an example of the different parts comprising a thruster. The finalized device is at the bottom right, measuring 1 cm by 1 cm and 2 mm in thickness. Courtesy of M. Scott BrauerMIT-developed microthrusters could soon be propelling small satellites. As small as a penny, these thrusters run on jets of ion beams. Designed by Paulo Lozano, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, the devices bear little resemblance to today’s bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes and heavy propellant tanks. Instead, Lozano’s design is a flat, compact square — much like a computer chip — covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions. Together, the array of spiky tips creates a small puff of charged particles that can help propel a shoebox-sized satellite forward.“They’re so small that you can put several [thrusters] on a vehicle,” Lozano says. He adds that a small satellite outfitted with several microthrusters could “not only move to change its orbit, but do other interesting things — like turn and roll.”Lozano and… Read full this story
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