You can’t get very far, very fast on an Ion Thruster: when compared to conventional rockets, ion thrusters can’t even compare.  However, what makes these engines so cool is that, over time, they just keep getting faster and faster.  NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) has been running almost 5 years non-stop.

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The NEXT thruster is about 10 times more fuel-efficient that conventional rocket engines, but because it can take so long to get moving to any really useful speed,

NASA has been putting these engines to the test.

The Ion thruster may take 10,000 hours of flight just to get beyond the asteroid belt outside of Mars.

how ion thrusters work
How ion thrusters work.

Every day and hour the NEXT thruster is on, it becomes faster and faster, outing the idea of Ion thrusters closer to real world application.

[via NASA]

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