Dr. Ahmed G. Abo-Khalil

Electrical Engineering Department

Ion thruster

Ion thruster


An ion thruster is a form of electric propulsion used for spacecraft propulsion that creates thrust by accelerating ions. The term is strictly used to refer to gridded electrostatic ion thrusters, but may often more loosely be applied to all electric propulsion systems that accelerate plasma, since plasma consists of ions. Ion thrusters are categorized by how they accelerate the ions, using either electrostatic or electromagnetic force. Electrostatic ion thrusters use the Coulomb force and accelerate the ions in the direction of the electric field. Electromagnetic ion thrusters use the Lorentz force to accelerate the ions. In either case, when an ion passes through an electrostatic grid engine, the potential difference of the electric field converts to the ion's kinetic energy.

According to Edgar Choueiri ion thrusters have an input power spanning 1–7 kilowatts, exhaust velocity 20–50 kilometers per second, thrust 20–250 millinewtons and efficiency 60–80%.[1][2]

The Deep Space 1 spacecraft, powered by an ion thruster, changed velocity by 4.3 km/s while consuming less than 74 kilograms of xenon. The Dawn spacecraft has surpassed the record with 10 km/s.[1][2]

The applications of ion thrusters include control of the orientation and position of orbiting satellites (some satellites have dozens of low-power ion thrusters) and use as a main propulsion engine for low-mass robotic space vehicles (for example Deep Space 1 and Dawn)

Office Hours

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email: a.abokhalil@mu.edu.sa

a_galal@yahoo.com

Phone: 2570

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