Chinese engineers have created a “pocket size” ion engine that is designed to “extend the life of small spacecraft and prevent them from becoming dangerous space junk.” The engine has already been tested in orbit, the China Daily wrote on Tuesday.
The shunting rocket engine was developed by the Beijing Institute No. 206 of the China Corporation of Aerospace Science and Technology (CASC). It was launched into orbit and tested using the Chinese small satellite “earlier this year,” the report said.
It is indicated that the engine was created in order to extend the life of small spacecraft and prevent them from becoming dangerous space debris.
An ion engine is an electric rocket engine in which jet propulsion is created based on the release of an ionized substance dispersed in an electric field. This Chinese engine, refers to working on liquid metals, usually – cesium, indium and mercury.
“An engine weighing 300 g represents a propulsion system for small satellites, which, in contrast to large satellites, do not have large rocket engines powered by chemical fuel, which corresponds to the most modern level of technological development,” the chief designer of the development institute Gao Hui told reporters. “Without large fuel tanks, pumps, valves and toxic fuels, the new device is easy to carry and able to provide efficient, high-precision maneuvering of small satellites.”
Gao Hui said that most of the spacecraft operate in low orbits in a static state, gradually losing their orbit due to the lack of units capable of maintaining a given altitude. At the same time, to ensure that the apparatus is at the right height, a sufficiently small force.
In addition, the developed device will extend the life of artificial Earth satellites in high orbit. If they have fulfilled their task, then they will not be allowed to turn into space debris using a small engine.
Earlier in China, they showed a new generation spaceship. That will be able to deliver cargo and up to six astronauts to the space station. The mass of the ship can reach 20 tons. Launch it into space will be a heavy rocket Changzheng-5.