Ion engine to propel spacecraft to Mercury

January 20, 2008

British space experts have been given the green light to start building a Star Trek-like engine for a Mercury-bound spacecraft.

The ion-powered BebiColumbo, which is set to leave Earth in 2013 for a six-year voyage to Mercury, will reach fuel efficiencies equal to 17.8 million miles per gallon, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

The hot planet has puzzled scientists because of its density in spite of being the planet closest in proximity to our solar system's sun.

Information gathered from the planetary investigation, which is being conducted by the European Space Agency and Astrium -- Europe's leading space enterprise-- is predicted to clarify ambiguity surrounding the configuration and pasts of Earth and other central planets.

"Ion propulsion will be a key technology for a series of future long-distance exploration missions. Today's agreement puts British scientists and engineers in a strong position in Europe to take a lead role in adopting these systems for future spacecraft," Astrium electro-propulsion specialist Howard Gray said.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International

Explore further: NASA Mars orbiter preparing for Mars lander's 2016 arrival

Related Stories

Federal officials examine probable cause of spaceship crash

July 28, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board is considering what caused a Virgin Galactic spaceship to break apart over the Mojave Desert during a test flight 10 months ago, killing the co-pilot and seriously injuring the pilot.

Lobster-Eye imager detects soft X-ray emissions

July 28, 2015

Solar winds are known for powering dangerous space weather events near Earth, which, in turn, endangers space assets. So a large interdisciplinary group of researchers, led by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration ...

Recommended for you

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

weewilly
not rated yet Jan 20, 2008
The miles per gallon sounds good but is there any pollution that will be left behind in space? Of course it will take a chemical propulsion system to get it up into space into zero gravity so it's Ion Engine will work okay.
CreepyD
not rated yet Jan 21, 2008
I bet this stat doesn't take the chemical propulsion required to get into space into account.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.