Tech Articles

NASA Developing New Engine That Can Travel To Mars In Weeks

Originally published in Storia

NASA engineers have reached a breakthrough with the development of a radical ion engine that will be able to transport humans to Mars in a mere matter of weeks.

The engines use magnetic and electric fields to ionize gases including xenon and then expel the ions to produce thrust. It is a method that is much safer, cleaner, and fuel efficient than traditional chemical rockets.

The charge to build these engines have been led by University of Michigan professor of aerospace engineering Alec Gallimore and Dean of Engineering Robert J. Vlasic.

When talking about the new engines, Gallimore said: “Mars missions are just on the horizon, and we already know that Hall thrusters work well in space. They can be optimized either for carrying equipment with minimal energy and propellant over the course of a year or so, or for speed while carrying the crew to Mars much more quickly.”

From a technical standpoint, the thrusters create exceptionally efficient plasma-based propulsion by accelerating very small amounts of propellant very quickly using magnetic and electric fields which helps them to reach top speeds with a fraction of the fuel used in a chemical rocket.

Now the challenge is to make the thrusters larger and more powerful so they can be used to get us to Mars.

Their newest thruster is called the X3, and although it has taken five years to build and rest, it has doubled the current operating record and has shattered speeds set by previous thrusters.

The X3 is so powerful that it can only be tested at NASA Glenn, a testing center in Cleveland, OH which is the only vacuum chamber in the United States and the only building that can handle the X3 thruster. The vacuum pumps are needed because when operated, the xenon shoots out the back of the thruster and it has to be immediately collected for accurate testing

The center also creates a vacuum-like chamber that most closely resembles being in space.

This thruster is just one part of the more extensive XR-100 propulsion system which NASA is planning to operate the rocket that will go to Mars. NASA has awarded the company Aerojet Rocketdyne $6.5 million in funding to complete the project.

Scott Hall, a student in Professor Gallimore’s lab, will do further testing of the X3. He will put the thruster through a battery of tests including running the machine up to 200 kilowatts to judge its power while also investigating a new tweak that they believe will allow the X3 to remain operational much longer than they originally intended, which is currently only a year.

The scientists are optimistic about their work. As Gallimore stated: “If we do our jobs over the next three years, we can deliver both projects.”

Mars, here we come!

“Passenger Drone” Completes First Manned Flight

Originally published in Storia

Are you sick and tired of your daily commute?

If you are like us, then you grumble every time that you get into your car for the long drive to work, and you are not alone.

Daily traffic is a major issue for the drivers of the United States. Just last year, the cost of gasoline, vehicle wear and tear, and environmental costs was over $300 billion, and that amount could skyrocket by over 50 percent in the next 15 years as more drivers get on the road.

Luckily, our days of long drives and time wasted going back and forth from work might be solved thanks to the new Passenger Drone.

The vehicle, which has been thoroughly tested with different simulated engine failures, payload weights, and control modes, completed its first manned flight recently and it seems to be operating without a hitch. The video of the test flight was released this week.

When traveling in the Passenger Drone, passengers can either operate it manually or by simply entering their destination so they can sit back and enjoy the ride.

A company spokesman released a written statement in which he stated his optimism that the new technology would radically transform how we get from place to place and that the reduced costs of drone technology could be a significant advantage to businesses and individuals alike.

The drone can go an average speed of 45 miles per hour and has a flight range of 25 minutes which also happens to be the time it the average person to drive to work. It has a maximum weight capacity of 800 lbs and room for two passengers.

Although it utilizes 16 electronic engines to operate, the drone is quieter than any other drone that has hit the market and thanks to a strong fiber composite structure, the drone is also quite light.

The drone is also quite unique in that it uses very few wires to operate. Instead, everything from the joystick to the navigation screens are all powered by and communicated through the power of fiber optics.

It may seem hard to believe, but with advancements like these, it is only a matter of time before we are all flying to work. In the meantime, the rest of us will have to deal with that nasty traffic.

Image Source: Passenger Drone