Ion engine for deep space, the principle of working in Russia with his own hands

Ion engine for spacecraft.

Technology is in the process of development!



The ion engine creates the opportunity to accelerate the spacecraft in zero gravity to speeds unavailable by any other of the existing types of space engines.


The nature, structure and operation of ion engine

Diagram of the ion engine

The advantages of ion engine

Prospects for the use of ion engines

Achieved specifications of ion engine

The use of ion engines


The nature, structure and operation of ion engine:

Ion engine – a type of electric rocket engine, the principle of operation is based on creating a jet thrust at the base of the ionized gas accelerated to high velocities in an electric field.

For the first time the device ion thruster was proposed by Russian scientist Tsiolkovsky in 1906 was launched further theoretical study of this issue. At the present time, it is a practical reality.

The ion engine works by using ionized gas, and electricity.

Work body, is usually an ionized inert gas (argon, xenon, etc.), but sometimes mercury.

The inert gas is supplied to the ionizer (gas, ionizing camera) ion engine. By itself, the gas is neutral, but the bombardment of high-energy electrons is ionized. Engine ignition is initiated by a momentary flow of electrons emitted in discharge (ionizing) cell. In the ionizer high-energy electrons produce ionization of the working fluid is gas. Thus in the chamber, a mixture of positive ions and negative electrons.

For “filtering out” of electrons appears in the camera tube with the cathode mesh, which attracts the electrons. Positive ions are attracted to the extraction system consisting of 2 or 3 meshes (positively-charged and negatively-charged). Between the grids is supported by the biggest difference of electrostatic potentials (+1090 volts to -225 on internal vs external). As a result of contact of the ions between the grids, they are accelerated and ejected into space, accelerating the spacecraft, according to Newton’s third law. The electrons trapped in the cathode tube (the catalyst), are emitted from the engine at a slight angle to the nozzle and the flow of ions.

To generate electricity use solar panels. But in the future it is planned to use a nuclear installation.

The use of an external magnetic field in the ion engine allows to increase the energy efficiency of the system.

Ion engines are characterized by high momentum. They spend a small amount of gas to make a maneuver.


Scheme and device of ion engine:


Advantages of the ion engine for spacecraft:

– creates the opportunity to accelerate the spacecraft in zero gravity to speeds unavailable by any other of the existing types of space engines

uses less fuel than conventional jet engines

– in the ion engine can achieve very high specific impulse. This can significantly reduce the consumption of reaction mass of ionized gas relative to the reactive flow of mass in chemical rockets

– for the operation of the ion engine is small enough electric capacity – from 150 to 500 Watts. Engines from 150 to 500 Watt can be installed on small satellites,

– low operating temperature, unlike conventional jet engines,

the working body need not be of high purity in contrast to conventional chemical fuel rockets

– easy Assembly and operation design,

ion engine will allow to increase term of operation of spacecraft in 2-3 and more times,

– travel to Mars (and back) is enough ion engine with a capacity of about 50 kW.


Prospects of application of ion thrusters:

The use of ion thrusters in spacecraft opens new prospects of space development, in particular, the launching of spacecraft.

Modern trends are that the share of launching heavy spacecraft (1000 kg) has been steadily declining and is on the order of not more than 30% of all launches.

Become more and more popular small spacecraft with the weight from 100 kg to 500 kg that are in a low orbit up to 1,000 km and functioning for a long time – 5-10 years.

Small spacecraft are satellites and mobile communication systems and radio-navigation, monitoring of Land, atmosphere and near-earth space.

Ion engines in the near future will replace the engines of the orbital motion of small satellites that will extend their active work (operation) 2-3 times and extend their life from 2-3 years to 5-10 years.

In the long term it is planned to equip everything, including heavy spacecraft ion engine that allows you to travel to distant planets and stars, a manned expedition to the planets of the Solar system, heavy transport flights.


Achieved specifications of the ion engine. Thrust, speed, efficiency ion engine:

Features: Value:
Power consumption, kW 1-7
The speed of the expiration of the ions of the ion engine, km/s 20-50
The thrust of the ion engine, mn 20-250
The efficiency of the ion engine, % 60-80
Time of continuous operation, years more than 3


The use of ion thrusters:

managing orientation and position of orbiting satellites (currently),

the main traction motor of a small unmanned space station (at present),

the main traction motor, heavy spacecraft (in the future).


Source: //Ионный_двигатель, //

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