The European Space Agency's new ion thruster "breathes" air
Researchers just test-fired a new type of ion thruster that “breathes” air, and one day, it could help humanity reach Mars and beyond.
Better propulsion systems are key to advancing our space capabilities, and one of the most promising kinds is ion propulsion. An ion thruster “ionizes” a propellant, most commonly xenon, by either adding electrons to it or taking electrons away. This creates thrust that can position a satellite or propel spacecraft, for example.
Ion thrusters are much cleaner,