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A Closer Look at Ion Propulsion

Ion engine model 1958
NASA Lewis researchers presented their work in ion engine technology at a showcase in 1958.

A Lewis researcher demonstrates a simple working model of an ion engine at the NACA’s final Inspection conference held in June 1958 at the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory. The Inspections featured a series of highly-polished presentations at various test facilities for invited industry and government leaders. At the 1958 event, Lewis conducted a presentation on chemical, nuclear, and electric space propulsion systems. It included the operation of this plasma accelerator model inside a small vacuum chamber. The thruster emitted a mixture of electrons and ions which deflected a small suspended plate. Sixty years after this embryonic research, the center remains a leader in ion propulsion.

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