Question by Rob: Both plasma and ion rockets use magnetic fields to contain?
Quote Both plasma and ion rockets use magnetic fields to contain and fire high speed ions out of the thrusters. Unfortunately, they don’t have as much raw thrust or acceleration as chemical rockets do. They do have the ability to speed up slowly however, the maximum acceleration is much easier reached with much less fuel. Quote
What is ion or ionizating? What is the fuel the plasma or ion rockets use? Why such low thrust ?
Answer by Vincent G
An ion is an atom that is electrically charged, either by adding or removal of one or more electrons.
Ionization is the process by which neutral atoms are turned into ions, usually this is done by stripping an electron.
The reaction mass used in ion thrusters is a material that is easily ionized, cesium or argon are frequently chosen.
The trust is low because the power available to accelerate a small mass is quite large, an ion or plasma engine requires a supply of electricity, which has to be provided by a generator of some sort (a nuclear isotopic reactor, solar panels). The more electric energy is invested into the acceleration of a small mass, the more efficient the thruster is in term of specific impulse.
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