NASA’s Newest Spacecraft Comes With A New Trick Up Its Sleeve – Solar-Powered Thrusters

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Depending on renewable sources of energy and investing in green operations for the betterment of the atmosphere is becoming more and more incorporated into the work of multiple industries. There are electric vehicles and solar ones. This technology is now being introduced in the space industry as well.  The famous space agency, NASA, is creating a spacecraft that will be able to travel around 1.5 billion miles through our solar system — using propulsion that’s almost entirely solar electric.

The small probe, called Psyche, was named after a 140-miles-across space rock in the asteroid belt. This was believed to be the building block of an early rocky planet. The scientists and researchers at Nasa are working on understanding more about the making of other rocky planets like the Earth. Looking closely, they resemble our earth a lot.

In order to achieve this objective and reach there, the spacecraft is outfitted with Hall thrusters. These are electric thrusters that give out a space-age blue glow. It is powered by solar panels attached to the other side.

The technology may mean that it requires some time to have enough speed to get anywhere fast. The model of Psyche will require three and a half years before it could reach its destination. The thrusters used that are solar powered are extremely energy efficient. This long journey will only require 2,030 pounds of xenon, approximately a fifth of the weight for the mission to be powered smoothly and without any hiccups.  

Taken on March 28, 2021, this photo shows the Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) Chassis just after it was delivered to JPL by Maxar Technologies.

Psyche will be launched in August 2022 with the help of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle from historic Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

This is a milestone in spacecraft propulsion, and this sets precedents for future missions of this like setting the stage for future deep-space missions powered by the Sun.

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