Rockets might be fiery fun, but they're big, bulky, and heavy. Ion thrusters, sci-fi as they sound, are real and these penny-sized ones are probably the future of steering small satellites in orbit.
Our current level of technological prowess is severely hindering efforts to explore the solar system. Nine months to get to Mars—who's got that kind of time? If a new breed of ion thruster currently under development at the Australian National University is successful, we'll get to the Red Planet in a third of the…
Modern spacecraft use a majority of their fuel supplies just to break away from the Earth's gravity and actually get into space. But a new NASA proposal hopes to cut that fuel requirement in half by employing solar-powered, ion-thrusting "Space Tugs" to ferry ships and satellites into Geosynchronous orbit.
Today, we use ion thrusters to correct satellite orbits and visit asteroids. In 100 years, we might be using them to propel massive generation ships that send colonists to a different part of the galaxy.