Russian engineers have created a rocket engine that runs on iodine

The creation of new types of engines for space rockets is one of the priorities of the global aerospace agencies. And recently it became known that the experts of Rocket and space Corporation “Energia” has developed and patented a new kind of electric jet engine that uses reactive iodine. Moreover, in the near future to begin the first serious test of the system.

The idea of using a jet of iodine as fuel is not new. It was offered in the 90-ies of the senior scientific employee of the Corporation Valery Ostrovsky. It was only in the mid-2000s, the company managed to obtain the necessary patents. Work on a new type of engine was launched in 2012. The first version of the device was equipped with a gas distribution device, a start was made on the xenon, and iodine supported discharge. Then designers have begun to develop systems of feeding iodine.

The combustion of iodine during testing

The advantage of this approach is high efficiency. In existing electric jet engines as a working body uses xenon, which is extremely expensive. Also the system of delivery and storage of xenon is complex enough, which increases the size and weight of the propulsion system. Iodine as well is stored in the solid state and can be easily turned into gas. But that’s not all: in such a system is possible and the recycling of iodine, which significantly saves fuel. As one of the leaders of the project, engineer Paul Shcherbina

“Ground tests of the propulsion system will be at the end of June. The prototype will be equipped with a cost neutral cathode-neutralizer that will allow to do without additional gaseous working fluid is xenon or argon. This engine can be used as propulsion or for the correction of the orbit, for example communications satellites, as well as solving transport problems of outer space.”

It also became known that in 2022 the planned experiment “Ostrovsky” (named, it is not difficult to guess in honor of the author of the idea of the engine). Electric propulsion on the iodine will pass phase 2 testing: the first part on Board ISS, and the second using the cargo ship “Progress”, which will have to undock and month be in orbit on engines running on iodine.

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