HomeScienceIodine-powered satellite successfully tested in space for first time

Iodine-powered satellite successfully tested in space for first time


master mentalism tricks

Many satellites use xenon as a propellant to help them change orbit or avoid collisions, but the gas is expensive – now we know iodine provides a cheaper alternative

Space 17 November 2021

By Chen Ly

The iodine electric propulsion system firing in a vacuum chamber

ThrustMe

A satellite has been successfully powered by iodine for the first time. Iodine performed better than the traditional propellant of choice, xenon – highlighting iodine’s potential utility for future space missions.

Spacecraft use propulsion systems to move around in space, helping them to change orbit or avoid collisions, for example. A key part of propulsion systems is the propellant – a substance expelled from the spacecraft to drive it forwards.

Currently, xenon is the main propellant used in electric propulsion systems, but the chemical is rare and expensive to produce. As a gas, xenon must also be stored at very high pressures, which requires specialised equipment.

Advertisement

Iodine has a similar atomic mass to xenon but is more abundant and much cheaper. It can also be stored as an unpressurised solid, meaning it has the potential to simplify satellite designs.

Dmytro Rafalskyi at ThrustMe, a space technology company based in France, and his colleagues have developed an electric propulsion system that uses iodine.

The propulsion system first heats up a solid block of iodine, turning it into a gas. The gas is bombarded with high-speed electrons, which turns it into a plasma of iodine ions and free electrons. Negatively charged hardware then accelerates the positively charged iodine ions from the plasma towards the system’s exhaust and propels the spacecraft forwards.

The team tested this propulsion system in space on a small 20-kilogram CubeSat satellite. The satellite was launched onboard a rocket on 6 November 2020 and was placed in orbit at an altitude of 480 kilometres. The team successfully operated the system 11 times in a series of small manoeuvres up to 28 February 2021.

The group found that the iodine system slightly outperformed xenon systems, with a higher overall energy efficiency, which showcases the viability of iodine as a propellant.

“If we want sustainable space exploration, where we don’t create as much space junk as today, we need to put propulsion systems on all satellites, even the smallest ones,” says Rafalskyi. This could allow a satellite to come back to Earth instead of staying in orbit at the end of its life, he says, and “it seems iodine is one of the ways to reach that goal”.

There are some difficulties with iodine that need to be addressed says Rafalskyi. For example, iodine reacts with most metals, so the team had to use ceramics and polymers to protect parts of the propulsion system. In addition, solid iodine takes about 10 minutes to turn into a plasma, which may not provide a propellant quickly enough for emergency manoeuvres to avoid an in-orbit collisions.

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04015-y

Sign up to Lost in Space-Time, a free monthly newsletter on the weirdness of reality

More on these topics:

Read The Full Article Here


trick photography
Advertisingfutmillion

Popular posts

Hollywood Spotlight: Director Jon Frenkel Garcia
The Dutchman Cast: André Holland, Zazie Beetz & More Join
The Creator Reactions: Gareth Edwards’ Latest Is One of 2023’s
Company Paid Critics For Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
Wendie Malick Is Martha Stewart-Esque Ghost in ‘Not Dead Yet’
The Cleaning Lady Season 3 Episode 1 Spoilers: Thony Starts
Sam Waterston Exits Law & Order With a Powerful Jack
‘Ray Donovan’ Spinoff Series Set At Paramount+
Dawson Fuss Releases Sophomore EP
“Achieving is Succeeding” by Kayden Gordon and Bob McGilpin
Marbyllia’s “Uncountable Spheres” 
Pacific Northwest-based Johnny Wheels and the Swamp Donkeys Release New Record
9 Boob Tapes That Work For All Busts, Shapes, and
Here’s Why Apple Cider Vinegar Is the Ingredient Your Hair
I Travel a Lot for Work—These Are the Useful Items
The Best Street Style Looks From the Fall 2023 Couture
Oprah’s Book Club Selects Moving Memoir From Formerly Incarcerated Woman
Top Engineer Assesses the Damage of American Politics, Economics and
An Author’s Fictionalized Account of Three Generations Living Together
“The Enchanted Hacienda” Author J
Complement system causes cell damage in long Covid
Why you might start to hate the influencers you once
Inside the milk bank creating infant formula for orphaned animals
A window into plant evolution: The unusual genetic journey of
Comedy or Tragedy?
BYD Atto 3 Electric SUV With Blade Battery Technology Launched
Bitcoin Falls to $19,000 in Anticipation of Tighter Fed Policy
Portugal’s Ministry of Finance Eyeing a Capital Gains Tax for