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Ion Propulsion

  1. Apr 23, 2004 #1
    I am doing a high level three year course in which I pick a science topic and do research on it. I will have the privilege of working with scientists and professors from several universities and laboratories and for this course I get 12 college credits, plus one highschool credit for each of the 3 years. However, I am finding it difficult deciding what topic to do. I have it between Nanotechnology, Ion Propulsion, and Forensics.
    However, I was unable to find any books on Ion propulsion, and most books on satellites in the stores were of the old ones, from the 60's and so on.
    My question is 1) would you reccomend Ion Propulsion as my topic and/or 2) what do you know about it?
    I know basic facts and few complex ones, but I have three years of this course so I am not in a rush :wink:
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 24, 2004 #2


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    You are in high school?

    How much math have you had?
    How much physics have you had, particularly electromagnetism?
    What college are you doing the research with?
    Do they have an aerospace department?
    Are there any professors doing research into Ion propulsion?
    What exactly interests you about it?

    This book Space Propulsion Analysis and Design by Humble, Henry, and Larson is the book which was used to teach my university's space propulsion class. It has a 80 page section on ion propulsion including case studies. I have used the book extensively in one of my senior year design projects, so if you're planning on doing space propulsion it's a good book to own. Look for it in the library first... the math can be daunting, even if you're used to it.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2004
  4. Apr 29, 2004 #3
    Sorry about my slow response time, I only had 4 days to do the assignment.

    Yes, I'm in highschool.

    "how much math?" if you mean quantity i've done two years of math.

    If I do this topic, I would be working with a NASA lab, only one person besides me has done this topic and he graduated...but I asked my teacher about it and she said that I'd be working in the same place he did...which was the NASA lab.

    I like techonology and i like astronomy. You put the two together and you get things like space shuttles :wink:

    Anyways, my local library and two of my local bookstores did not have any books on ion propulsion so I did my project on nanotechnology. This means nothing, this project was a preliminary to eliminate less dedicated students. But with learning about nanotechnology, I must say now its difficult to decide which topic I want to do.
  5. May 2, 2004 #4


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    I asked how much math, because to really understand what's going on with rockets you'll need at least a semester or three of calculus. Any technical books about rocketry will assume knowledge of calculus and differential equations at least.
  6. May 15, 2004 #5
    No, no calculus for me yet.

    Im in honors math which is how I got the two years....
    However, I will not need calculus for two years because the first year of the program is all research on the topic. Ex: when it was discovered, its properties, what it can do, how it will help us, things like that.

    The second year, you find a mentor. If I chose Ion Propulsion it would likely be someone from NASA. I would communicate and work with this mentor for the second and third year.
  7. May 26, 2004 #6
    Hi shadow
    If you like to look into ion propulsion there is a guy that makes what he calls a lifter beam ship.( I have just ordered one) Go to google or yahoo and look up antigravity you will find Tim Venturas site. In the site you will find the lifter information using Ion propulsion. Very intersting stuff
  8. May 27, 2004 #7


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    Antigravity has nothing to do with this. All this talk
    about antigravity and stuff is just B.S.
    There are a number of electrical atmospheric propulsion
    systems using different effects. None of them are
    really effective today, not even closely to the point
    of being able to float together with their power-source
    for even a few seconds. Maybe when we have portable
    fusion generators... :biggrin:
  9. May 27, 2004 #8


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    Drag covered this well, so I'll let it go. Welcome to the site, but please keep with the topic. The engineering forums are for real engineering.
  10. May 27, 2004 #9
    Thanks guys, and welcome to PF hawkline. Although it was a little off topic, I think I may just search that it sounds interesting!
  11. Jun 9, 2004 #10


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    Both the Boeing 601 and the Boeing 702 satellite buses use ion propulsion. NASA also uses a larger version on their Deep Space 1. So, you might want to check with them for some research material.

    In general, a thruster is a thruster. You send matter out one end, the spacecraft moves the opposite direction. If the matter you use is some combustible chemicals that react with one another, the matter comes out a lot faster, which increases the kinetic energy of the matter being expelled - in other words, the spacecraft moves faster in the opposite direction for the same amount of matter.

    Ion propulsion uses the same principle, except you're accelerating a small amount of mass really, really fast, meaning you don't need to launch nearly as much fuel (mass) into orbit. You still need lots of power to accelerate the xenon ions - or, in this case, you need lots of electricity. On satellites, that means bigger solar arrays (more mass), but if your satellite has a long enough lifetime, the extra weight in solar arrays is still more efficient since you're getting 10-15 years of solar power out of them.

    I don't know much about Deep Space 1, but from its name, I'd think getting enough solar power would wind up being a problem. Deep space probes use some type of chemical or nuclear power for electricity, so you're still stuck using a non-renewable source of energy.

    The xenon ion propulsion systems the Boeings use are high on efficiency, but low on power. After the satellite is in orbit, they use the XIPS to maintain the orbit (keep the satellite in its assigned slot in spite of orbital perturbations). They maintain a really tight orbit, but your satellite isn't going to move out of the way of other objects very fast. So far, space is big enough that you've only had a couple of collisions between spacecraft and orbital debris, but that geo belt gets more crowded all the time and sometimes the orbital debris is pretty big (the gravity gradient boom on a French Cerise satellite was struck by an old booster rocket, which just did wonders for attitude control).
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