London: A lightweight satellite thruster can go to the Moon on just 100 ml of fuel, slashing cost of space missions.
The mini motor uses electricity to expel ions and generate thrust, built to manoeuvre spacecraft in space, which previously required bulky, expensive engines.
The first prototype is to be unveiled by EPFL (École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) lab and the scientists hope it could ‘usher in a new era of low-cost space exploration’. EPFL is one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology and is located in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Tiny satellites are much cheaper than their bigger cousins, but lack an effective propulsion system. EPFL hopes its MicroThrust motor, which will allow satellites to shift direction in their orbit speed of 40,000 kph, could be the answer, the Daily Mail reports.
Herbert Shea, of EPFL, said: “At the moment, nanosatellites are stuck in their orbits. Our goal is to set them free.”
EPFL scientist Muriel Richard added: “We calculated that in order to reach lunar orbit, a 1-kg nanosatellite with our motor would travel for about six months and consume 100 ml of fuel.”
It is due to be used on CleanSpace One, a satellite under development at EPFL that is intended to clean up space debris. The satellite will ‘grab’ lumps of orbiting debris and throw them back into Earth’s atmosphere, where they will burn up on re-entry.