Although other spacecraft like Lucy already use solar energy to operate instruments, Psyche will be one of NASA’s first deep-space missions to use solar energy for airborne operations and propulsion.
Paul LozanoThe director of the MIT Space Propulsion Laboratory said that Psecco can lay the foundation for more solar-powered space exploration. Ultimately, this technology can help us investigate multiple celestial bodies for a longer period of time, and may make manned missions beyond Earth’s orbit more affordable and feasible.
“It actually opens up the possibility of exploring and commercializing space in ways we have never seen before,” Lozano said.
Because a spacecraft powered by solar power requires less propellant than a chemically powered spacecraft, it has more space for cargo, scientific instruments, and future astronauts. a company, Action system, It is developing more efficient ion thrusters for cube satellites and larger satellites and other spacecraft.
Solar propulsion technology has been common in satellites orbiting the earth, but until now, it is still not a powerful substitute for chemical power engines, and is usually used in spacecraft heading to deep space. Advances in solar power propulsion will change this situation.
The technology behind Psyche underwent its first major test on Dawn, an exploratory spacecraft that uses solar energy and ion thrusters. In 2018, three years after the mission was supposed to end, Dawn finally remained silent as it orbited the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will orbit for decades. These thrusters can run for many years without running out of fuel, but they provide relatively low thrust compared to traditional thrusters.
Psyche’s thrusters will be able to generate three times the thrust of its predecessors, and about a year after launch, it will get some help from the gravity of Mars to change its trajectory, eventually reaching its goal in 2026.