Ten times faster lithium ion thrusters will be tested at JPL within 6 months

50000 ISP lithium ion thrusters will be tested at JPL within 6 months.

NASA NIAC phase 2 study to use lasers to beam 10 megawatts of power to power new ion drives. This will enable a system to go ten times faster than any previous space mission. This will go 40 AU per year. It would take less than year to get to Pluto.

They are building and proving out the various components of this system. The sail and the ion drives are coming together. The hard part is the phased array lasers.

They are boosting the testing voltage up to 6000 volts so the lithium ion drives can be directly driven. Direct drive eliminates the need for a lot of heavy electronics which would kill the performance.

The phased array lasers will increase the power density over the solar density by 100 times.

Going from a laser wavelength of 1063 nanometers down to 300 nanometers would reduce the needed power and system size.

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