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The eerie blue exhaust trail of an ion thruster during a test firing. A quartet of these highly efficient T6 thrusters is being installed on ESA’s BepiColombo spacecraft to Mercury at ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Ion Propulsion

NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) in operation. NASA's new solar-electric propulsion thruster uses xenon ions for propulsion. The thruster can provide higher spacecraft top speeds than any other rocket currently available.

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New NASA Ion Thruster To Propel Spacecraft To 90,000 MPH | Video

ion thruster - a form of electric propulsion used for spacecraft propulsion that creates thrust by accelerating ions. The term is strictly used to refer to gridded ion thrusters, but may often more loosely be applied to all electric propulsion systems that accelerate plasma, since plasma consists of ions. Ion thrusters are categorized by how they accelerate the ions, using either electrostatic or electromagnetic force.

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A Carbon Nanotube Pillar Array Ionizer for Miniature Ion Thruster Applications by Troy C. Hicks. $3.11. 92 pages

Hall effect thruster In spacecraft propulsion, a Hall Effect Thruster (HET) is a type of ion thruster in which the propellant is accelerated by an electric field.

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