Saturday, 9 August 2003

Ion Drive

"Voyage to Arcturus" has an interesting article on the European SMART-1 satellite that's taking the "Scenic Route" to the Moon. It's hitchhiking with some Geosynchronous Comsats into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), then getting off and making its way to the Moon using an Ion Drive.

The article is particularly interesting because the author (Jay Manifold) does some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the thrust required - and shows that there's plenty and to spare. The Maths is fairly simple, there's lots of links showing where he got the data from, what the equations are etc. All-in-all a very nice piece of work, that even the Mathematically-challenged can understand.

It takes a real Rocket Scientist to explain Rocket Science so that it isn't - er - Rocket Science.

Oh yes, one more thing :
All in all, it makes for a nice demonstration of a technology that will not only permit comsats to carry many more transponders, etc -- much of their mass today is taken up by conventional propellants for stationkeeping -- but also permit much larger payloads to be sent on interplanetary missions.
So the author sees the implications too. Damn, you get to read some good stuff on the Web.

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