A special spacecraft is now orbiting our planet. The iodine propellant it employs to move about in space is its trade secret.
The CubeSat-style spacecraft, which will be launched in 2020, will be the first satellite to employ iodine to transform electrical energy into ion propulsion. It will weigh roughly 45 pounds (20 kilogrammes).
According to an article published today in the journal Nature, the mission might pave the way for a new generation of less expensive, smaller spacecraft.
A plasma physicist who works for the French space agency and is one of the paper's authors, Dmytro Rafalskyi, stated that iodine fuel may also make it simpler to equip more low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites with propellant, which could lessen the amount of future space trash.
Currently, the majority of tiny satellites orbiting the Earth lack propulsion. This is due to the fact that the most typical systems are either too costly or too large to be attached to a tiny satellite. Defunct satellites that lack propulsion remain in orbit, adding to the tens of thousands of pointless pieces of space junk.
I hope that in ten years, most LEO satellite propulsion systems will employ iodine, stated Rafalskyi. Because you can't, for instance, easily de-orbit, modern space exploration is not at all viable.
An ion propulsion system created by Rafalskyi and his team would fit inside a cube with a side measurement of around 4 inches. According to Rafalskyi, that is around half the size of the next-smallest system.
Many larger commercial satellites use ion propulsion, which is one of the most effective ways to power spacecraft. However, xenon gas, which is scarce and expensive to create, is now used to generate fuel for almost all ion propulsion systems.
Edited By: Bidyut Gogoi