Swiss EPFL Laboratory Develops Cheap Mini-Motor to Launch Small Satellites

[Satellite TODAY 03-30-12] Researchers at Switzerland’s Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne (EPFL) claim to have built a miniature rocket motor that could lower the price of satellite launches to one-tenth of today’s average costs, EPFL officials announced March 29.

   Swiss scientists said the rocket was designed for small satellites, as the first prototype weighs just 200 grams and runs on an “ionic” liquid chemical compound rather than traditional fuel. The EPFL motor generates thrust through a process in which ions are extracted from the liquid compound and ejected through an electric field.
   EPFL Swiss Space Center Scientist Muriel Richard said that a mini-satellite using the motor would have a cruising speed of about 42,000 kilometers-per-hour. “We calculated that in order to reach lunar orbit, a 1-kilogram nanosatellite with our motor would travel for about six months and consume 100 milliliters of fuel,” Richard said in a statement.
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