Engine for satellites

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Space, tested the first air motor for satellites: developed by a company in Bari.

Motor prototype for Italian satellites

The ESA launches a new generation of satellites that can fly for years in very low orbits. the project was attended by Sitael who developed the engine.

For the first time an electric engine was built and launched in space to use the limited air molecules present in the top of the atmosphere as a propellant, paving the way for a new generation of satellites that can fly for years in very low orbits.

The project is of the European Space Agency (Esa), whose gravity mapper Goce has flown just 250 kilometers above sea level for more than five years, thanks precisely to an engine that replaced the 40 kilograms of xenon he had at edge as fuel, when exhausted, with the atmosphere molecules.

The project was attended by an Italian company, Sitael di Bari, which developed an engine to test the project, in a vacuum chamber, simulating an environment at 200 kilometers above sea level. “At the beginning – explains Louis Walpot of ESA – we have tested if our engine can be switched on with the xenon obtained from the particle generator”.

“Then the xenon was partially replaced with a mixture of air composed of nitrogen and oxygen.When the blue cloud of smoke produced by the engine, originating from the xenon, changed to purple, we understood that the test was successful. the system has been turned on repeatedly only with atmospheric propellant. The positive result means that the air-powered electric motor is a project ready to be developed, which will in future be the basis of a new generation of satellite missions “.

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