The X3 is one of three prototypes that NASA is investigating for future manned missions to Mars, all aimed at reducing travel times and the amount of fuel needed. During a recent test, this engine broke a record never before achieved by a Hall Effect propeller, achieving greater power and thrust, reports Science Alert.
The mechanism, dubbed the “impossible engine” for its properties that even scientists cannot fully define, broke a record of thrust never before achieved by a Hall propeller, achieving 5.4 newtons of force compared to the old record of 3.3 newtons It also significantly improved the electric current intensity (250 amperes versus 112) and slightly the power (102 kilowatts versus 98).
The test was conducted by Scott Hall and Hani Kamhawi at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, USA. Hall is a Ph.D. student in aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, and Kamhawi is a NASA scientist who has been very involved in the development of the X3.
This X3 propellant works by converting small amounts of propellant (usually inert gases such as xenon) into plasma charged with electric fields, which then accelerates very quickly using a magnetic field.
One of the advantages of the propeller is that it can reach maximum speeds using a small amount of fuel, unlike chemical rockets. Hence, NASA has been developing the model X3 propeller along with its partners.
But testing these types of propellers on Earth is not easy , since you need a vacuum chamber with enough capacity to install the engine. Afterwards it is necessary to extract all the air from the chamber, a process that lasts about 20 hours.
At the beginning of 2018, the team plans to conduct more tests in the Gallimore laboratory using an improved vacuum chamber.