NASA rocket engine runs 5+ years – still not out of ions
By JAKE ELLISON, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Updated 4:54 pm, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The NEXT ion thruster has been operated for over 48,000 hours, which for rocket scientists means that the thruster
has processed over 770 kilograms of xenon propellant and can provide 30 million-newton-seconds of total impulse
to the spacecraft. This demonstrated performance permits future science spacecraft to travel to varied destinations,
such as extended tours of multi-asteroids, comets, and outer planets and their moons. Photo: NASA
It's been blasting away since early 2008, a constant thrust for over 48,000 hours, and it's still ready for more, NASA says of its advance ion propulsion engine.
"We will voluntarily terminate this test at the end of this month, with the thruster fully operational. Life and performance have exceeded the requirements for any anticipated science mission," said Michael J. Patterson, principal investigator for NEXT at Glenn, in a press release.