Integrated Studies of Electric Propulsion Engines during Flights in the Earth’s Ionosphere
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Fifty years ago, on October 1, 1966, the first Yantar satellite laboratory with a gas plasma–ion electric propulsion was launched into orbit as part of the Yantar Soviet space program. In 1966–1971, the program launched a total of four laboratories with thrusters operating on argon, nitrogen, and air with jet velocities of 40, 120, and 140 km/s, respectively. These space experiments were the first to demonstrate the long-term stable operation of these thrusters, which exceed chemical rocket engines in specific impulse by an order of magnitude and provide effective jet charge compensation, under the conditions of a real flight at altitudes of 100–400 km. In this article, we have analyzed the potential modern applications of the scientific results obtained by the Yantar space program for the development of air-breathing electric propulsion that ensure the longterm operation of spacecraft in very low orbits.
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