February 25, 2007 Georgia Tech researchers have developed a new protoype engine that allows satellites to take off with less fuel, opening the door for deep space missions, lower launch costs and more payload in orbit. The efficient satellite engine uses up to 40 percent less fuel by running on solar power while in space and by fine-tuning exhaust velocity. It uses a novel electric and magnetic field design that helps better control the exhaust particles. Ground control units can then exercise this control remotely to conserve fuel. Satellites using the Georgia Tech engine to blast off can carry more payload thanks to the mass freed up by the smaller amount of fuel needed for the trip into orbit. Or, if engineers wanted to use the reduced fuel load another way, the satellite could be launched more cheaply by using a smaller launch vehicle.
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