(New Scientist Space) An ion engine several times more powerful than any previously flown is being tested by NASA. It could propel a spacecraft all the way to Saturn's moon Titan.
Ion engines operate by removing electrons from atoms of a gas--usually xenon--and then accelerating the resulting ions through an electric field. The ions are shot out the back of the engine to create thrust.
The engines provide much less thrust at any given time than do rockets. But they are much more fuel efficient, providing a steady source of propulsion that could ideally be used to take spacecraft to the outer solar system.
This technology will be quite useful for satellite's traveling in deep space as well as future explorers traveling throughout the asteroid belt. Despite being fuel efficient, we may need something a little faster for colonists as traveling through space can become quite dangerous.
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