|Aust-made plasma thruster facing space test
Plasma thruster: Exhaust of the HDLT operating with xenon in a laboratory experiment at Australian National University. (Australian National University)
Map: Canberra 2600
A revolutionary Australian National University-developed propulsion system will be the first of its kind to be tested in space.
The new type of rocket engine, called a plasma thruster is being modified to be launched within the next four years as part of a prototype satellite.
A collaboration between the ANU's Space Plasma Power and Propulsion group, European aerospace company EADS-Astrium and the University of Surrey was formed in March this year to develop the new plasma thruster prototype.
It will be the first time a satellite with a plasma engine has been tested in space and the first time in seven years that a piece of Australian hardware has been sent into space.
ANU researcher Dr Christine Charles says the long term aim is to have the thruster developed as a product for general use in space exploration.
"To have it operate on different types of missions like satellite positioning or really deep space missions because this thruster can be scalable to high power because this is what you need to go to Mars for example," she said.
The satellite will incorporate Dr Charles's Helicon Double Layer Thruster which is an electrode-less magneto plasma thruster, the first of its kind in the world to be used in space.
"It is our thruster which will show that this type of propulsion system is suitable for space use and space missions," she said.