posted on Dec, 13 2005 @ 08:02 AM
Helicon reactor in operation
ESA accelerates towards a new space thruster
13 December 2005
ESA has confirmed the principle of a new space thruster that may ultimately give much more thrust than today’s electric propulsion techniques. The
concept is an ingenious one, inspired by the northern and southern aurorae, the glows in the sky that signal increased solar activity.
“Essentially the concept exploits a natural phenomenon we see taking place in space,” says Dr Roger Walker of ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team.
"When the solar wind, a ‘plasma’ of electrified gas released by the Sun, hits the magnetic field of the Earth, it creates a boundary consisting
of two plasma layers. Each layer has differing electrical properties and this can accelerate some particles of the solar wind across the boundary,
causing them to collide with the Earth’s atmosphere and create the aurora."
In essence, a plasma double layer is the electrostatic equivalent of a waterfall. Just as water molecules pick up energy as they fall between the two
different heights, so electrically charged particles pick up energy as they travel through the layers of different electrical properties.
Researchers Christine Charles and Rod Boswell at the Australian National University in Canberra, first created plasma double layers in their
laboratory in 2003 and realised their accelerating properties could enable new spacecraft thrusters. This led the group to develop a prototype called
the Helicon Double Layer Thruster......
same space as the main truster of the smart one they claim yet 100kw poweroutput and same efficiency.
well the succesor of the ion engine is there.