As humanity embarks on ambitious endeavors to explore the far reaches of our Solar System and beyond, traditional propulsion techniques may be too inefficient for long-duration space missions. That’s one of the reasons why researchers at the Space Propulsion Laboratory at MIT have been developing an alternative propulsion system: electrospray electric thrusters.
These relatively small and energy-efficient thrusters have the potential to revolutionize deep space exploration, offering significant advantages over conventional propulsion systems. By utilizing electric propulsion, electrospray thrusters deliver a higher specific impulse, enabling spacecraft to travel farther with less propellant, or enabling space agencies to launch smaller spacecraft into space. This increased efficiency is crucial for tackling the challenges of deep space exploration, as it reduces the overall mass and cost of space missions while increasing their range and duration.
Electric propulsion could also prove to be a cheap and easy way to keep satellites in orbit above Earth indefinitely, potentially offering a way to clean up space debris.