From time to time, there has been some speculation in these parts that one of the secrets wrapped up in the Townsend Brown story is the origins of an "ion drive" of the kind now being used in certain inter-planetary/stellar space probes. Here’s an item from Aviation Week about one such project that is preparing for launch later this week:
Powered by glowing blue beams from its own revolutionary solar electric ion propulsion system (IPS), Dawn is to fly to, then orbit, these two separate bodies hundreds of millions of miles apart. Only science fiction spacecraft have done such things before; Star Trek’s Enterprise did it using antimatter propulsion.
With 935 lb. of xenon fuel, the 2,696-lb. Dawn spacecraft has far more propulsion capability than any previous real spacecraft.
Dawn’s solar electric propulsion system has the ability to accelerate the spacecraft by nearly 7 mi. per sec. over the course of its mission. This is as much velocity change in deep space as it will receive from its entire Delta launch vehicle to reach space, then depart Earth orbit.
“That is huge for a planetary mission, it is really incredible velocity capability,” says Mike Mook, the Dawn Orbital Sciences project manager.
Follow this link for details on the ion drive itself, and a graphic comparison to other kinds of propulsion.