Test & Measurement

Penny-Sized Rocket Thruster to Propel Small Satellites

A new microthruster - designed by Paulo Lozano, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT - bears little resemblance to today's bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes, and heavy propellant tanks. Instead, Lozano's design is a flat, compact square - much like a computer chip - covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions. Together, the array of spiky tips creates a small puff of charged particles that can help propel a shoebox-sized satellite forward.