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Swiss pioneer motor aimed at slashing satellite launch costs
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) March 29, 2012

Swiss researchers said Thursday they have built a mini-motor which they claim could slash the costs of satellite launches by 10 times, ushering in "a new era of low-cost space exploration."

Scientists at the Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne (EPFL) have built the first prototype of the motor weighing just 200 grams and which runs on an "ionic" liquid -- a chemical compound rather than traditional fuel.

The motor generates thrust through a process in which ions are extracted from the liquid compound and ejected through an electric field.

Designed for small satellites, the motor could make satellite launches 10 times cheaper, an EPFL spokesman told AFP.

A mini-satellite using the motor would have a cruising speed of about 42,000 kilometres per hour.

"We calculated that in order to reach lunar orbit, a 1-kilogramme nanosatellite with our motor would travel for about six months and consume 100 millilitres of fuel," said Muriel Richard, a scientist in EPFL's Swiss Space Center.

Space's vacuum cleaner CleanSpace One would be the first satellite to be equipped with the motor.

Scientists have a year to complete the nanosatellite which would grab debris and put it into the Earth's orbit for incineration.

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ATREX Mission Launched from Wallops
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 29, 2012
NASA successfully launched five suborbital sounding rockets this morning from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as part of a study of the upper level jet stream. The first rocket was launched at 4:58 a.m. EDT and each subsequent rocket was launched 80 seconds apart. Each rocket released a chemical tracer that created milky, white clouds at the edge of space. Tracking the way the clou ... read more

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