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Aerospace: Iodine electric propulsion engine test

Aerospace: Iodine electric propulsion engine test

He. She iodine It is not only an element that has beneficial properties for the health of our body, but it can also be something else. can become a file fuel.

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New iodine booster system

We are talking about electric propulsion Based on ionic thrusters, which practically exploits the electrostatic acceleration of ions that are formed during the process of ionizing neutral atoms or molecules, or when they gain or lose electrons, they become ions.
These propulsion systems have very high efficiency and therefore have been exploited for some time in space and during each of them space mission, in the engines of satellites and spacecraft. In particular, a noble gas is used as a propellant: xenon.

The problem with the use of xenon in space propulsion lies in the fact that this gas is expensive to produce – about $3,000 per kilogram – and it must be stored under high pressure, in addition, it is a rare element. Moreover, xenon is also used in other industrial sectors, such as semiconductors, and thus it becomes more difficult to find.
This was the French company Trust me, an expert in orbital propulsion solutions, has studied the possibility of switching to another type of ionized fuel by creating iodine booster system, named NPT30-I2. Then the system was directly tested in space The results were published in the scientific journal temper nature.

Iodine: Because it is an effective fuel

As explained by French experts, the advantages of using iodine are different:

  • plentiful
  • economic
  • Solid state storable – less bulky and more secure
  • basal temperature sublimation
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Iodine is more readily available because it is present in greater quantities than xenon, and it also has a lower cost. as can be stored in solid state, has a logistical advantage as its storage density is nearly three times that of xenon, which is instead compressed. This is fundamental to reducing the size of propulsion systems and avoiding the risks and complex protocols associated with gas compression.

From the solid state in which it is stored, the iodine must then be converted into a gas for its use. This happens thanks to the process of sublimation that allows it to pass from the solid state to the gaseous state without passing through the liquid state. To do this, low temperatures are sufficient, and all this takes place using a radio frequency antenna, which turns it into plasma or ionized gas.
Ionization, as mentioned, causes the impulse by accelerating the iodine ions.

NPT30-I2 small dimensions, big efficiency

Replacing xenon with iodine involved significant technical work, but in the end, it made it possible to create a full-fledged propulsion system and ensured much better performance, increased by almost 50%.
Thus, the NPT30-I2 is efficient and compact – it is a cube of approximately 10 x 10 x 10 cm in size. This will allow it to be used on small satellites, improving their performance.
The French propulsion system was tested directly in space on a small plane Satellites run by aerospace company The space, which specializes in small satellite and satellite services. The launch took place on November 6, 2020 and process monitoring and data collection began immediately, with results confirming expectations.
The use of iodine is now expected to open new opportunities in the satellite sector, by expanding the usability of small satellites and reducing the cost and complexity of propulsion systems for larger satellites.

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Music: “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” ap. 30 – Richard Strauss
Photo: ThrustMe

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