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New Russian ion engines will undergo flight tests by the end of this decade
Yesterday at the research center named after. M.IN. Keldysh, which is part of Roscosmos, announced plans to conduct flight tests of new space ion engines in the period from 2025 to 2030. The specific test method is still under discussion. The first firing tests of one of the prototypes were successfully carried out last summer.
An example of an ion rocket engine. Image source: NASA
The center has already developed and created an ion rocket engine with a power of 200 W to 35 kW. In particular, we are talking about the prototype ID-200 KR, which was tested in June 2021. Foreign counterparts, which are already in production, allow providing power from 450 to 3500 W with a DC discharge (XIPS-13 and NSTAR in the USA and T-5 in the UK) and with an microwave discharge with a power of up to 750 W (made in Japan). Also on the market is the German RIT-10 ion engine with high frequency (radio frequency) discharge.
Separately, Russian developers mentioned that a preliminary study of a 100 kW engine is underway. “We hope that we will fly around our products in 2025-2030,” the Keldysh Center said.
Low power engines are supposed to be used in small spacecraft in low orbits. Powerful ion engines are used in heavy transport systems. The planned active life of ion engines reaches 15 years. But since the engine in spaceships is turned on for a relatively short time, it will obviously outlive the vehicles themselves. Such engines can serve both for orbit correction and for long-distance space missions.