Ion-ing my plasma sails.

Nope... they're not getting any funnier are they? Nevermind.

So, I was poking round Cosmiverse this morning for my usual fix of spacey goodness when I stumbled across a rather spanking article on Nasa's development of new propulsion systems. Despite containing nothing particularly new or revelutionary it does seem to offer an almost idiots guide to next-gen propulsion systems and exactly why big chemical rockets are a no-no.

With today's chemical rockets, payload mass fraction is low. "Even using a minimum-energy trajectory to send a six-person crew from Earth to Mars, with chemical rockets alone the total launch mass would top 1,000 metric tons--of which some 90 percent would be fuel," said Bret G. Drake, manager for space launch analysis and integration at Johnson Space Center. The fuel alone would weigh twice as much as the completed International Space Station.

Interested in ion engines? Want to know how solar sails work? Even remotely know what a plasma sail is? Well have a quick peek at cosmiverse's skinny.


Heavy Engine Console
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