Ion Engines

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mstrozier06

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Just a quick question. What is the theorized top speed a probe could go using an Ion Engine? I understand the thrust is about as strong as laying a piece of paper against your hand. However in space, without any resistance, this is an advantage and the craft 'slowly' accelerates.<br /><br /><br />If you created a probe that is the length of a Saturn V rocket, filled completely with Xenon, and ran it till the tank runs dry, exactly how fast will the craft travel? Will it stop at 38,000mph or greatly exceed this as the years go by??<br /><br /><br />I have a number of theories as my interests lies in plantary studies and I am highly interested in discovering methods to study Exosolar planets.<br /><br />Or just be a dreamer one. Either way <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> <br /><br /><br />Thanks for the assistance
 
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docm

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The latest in ion drives is the DS4G (Dual Stage 4 Grid) being worked on by the ESA which when run at 30kV using Xenon produces an exhaust plume of ~210 km/s (130.48 miles/s), over four times faster than previous ion designs. <br /><br />It very likely could operate at much higher voltages and be used in clusters powered by nuclear reactors, making for a very quick way to get around the solar system.<br /><br />http://prl.anu.edu.au/SP3/research/SAFEandDS4G/<br /><br />though the 'holy grail' would be if VASIMR (variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket) became operational;<br /><br />http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_specific_impulse_magnetoplasma_rocket<br /><br />Initiated at NASA Ad Astra is currently doing the development;<br /><br />http://www.adastrarocket.com/vasimr.html <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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mstrozier06

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Thanks for the information. I'll read up on the links.
 
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nexium

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Future ion engines may accellerate enough ejection mass (zenon or other) to reach 0.01 c in about a century. Keeping all the esentional systems operational for a century will be changing, so we likely should not design for more than a century. The pay load may be less than 1% of the beginning mass. The craft will coast at about 0.01 c forever, but nearly all the equipment can expected to be beyond repair after a few centuries. Neil
 
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publiusr

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Well, if we ever have Ares V--perhaps a fast outer solar system proble.<br /><br />A nuclear thermal upper stage with the payload being an ion drive package.
 
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