Status of Electric Propulsion Systems for Space Missions

  • W. E. Moeckel
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Cryogenic Engineering book series (ACRE, volume 6)


During the past few years, electric propulsion systems have passed from the status of ideas which look interesting but somewhat academic to the status of active research and development, with a firm and growing place in the nation’s space program. How has this come about, and is it really justifiable? The electric propulsion cycle itself looks tremendously cumbersome and roundabout — nuclear or solar energy is first converted to heat, which in turn is converted into electrical energy, which is used, either directly or indirectly, to accelerate the propellant rearward to produce thrust. In each portion of this cycle there are inefficiencies and technological difficulties which are far from negligible. Furthermore, electric propulsion systems are so heavy, relative to the thrust that they can produce, that they must be boosted into orbit before they can be used, and they are almost painfully slow in getting in and out of planetary gravitational fields.


Electric Propulsion Specific Impulse Electric Power Supply Thrust Generator Electric Propulsion System 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1961

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. E. Moeckel
    • 1
  1. 1.Lewis Research CenterNational Aeronautics and Space AdministrationClevelandUSA

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