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Nasa's Solar-Electric Propulsion Ion Thruster Could Be Used To Bag An Asteroid

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Although it looks a lot like a trendy neon cigarette lighter this is actually Nasa's latest cutting-edge propulsion system.

The solar-electric propulsion thruster is currently under development and is being touted as the engine of choice to power the space agency's Asteroid Initiative.

The system accelerates xenon ions using a magnetic field to generate thrust and are powered by solar panels.

nasa solarelectric propulsion ion thruster

The system is being developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Even though they can't produce as much power than traditional chemical rockets, ion thrusters are ideal for space missions as they are far more efficient.

An earlier version of the thruster is currently powering NASA's Dawn mission which is looking at the asteroids Vesta and Ceres.

nasa solarelectric propulsion thruster

A digram of the workings of an ion thruster

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