Russia’s Energia Rocket and Space Corporation will test the new electric propulsion rocket engine operating on iodine this month end, TASS reports quoting the company’s press office as saying.
"The developers will hold the ground tests of the propulsion unit already in late June," project co-head and design engineer Pavel Shcherbina said.
Energia is also set to test the new engine aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and a Progress resupply ship in 2022, the press office said.
Energia specialists have patented an iodine storage and feed system for the future electric propulsion rocket engine, the statement said.
The press office highlighted the advantages of the new iodine engine, stating that apart from being cost effective, iodine is capable of easily converting into gas from its solid state, without using a multi-stage pressure reducing system.
"Xenon, which is considerably more expensive than iodine, is traditionally used as the propellant in existing electric propulsion engines. Besides, the xenon storage and feed system is quite complex and bulky, which significantly increases the propulsion unit’s dimensions and mass. Another essential factor is that the quantity of xenon produced is insufficient for solving future space exploration tasks, for example, flights to the Moon," the press office said.
"During life-cycle tests, iodine re-circulation is also possible. As a result, the cost of ground testing of such an electric propulsion rocket engine is tens of times lower while the iodine engine parameters are at least no inferior to the characteristics of electric propulsion rocket engines operating on xenon," Energia said.
The engine’s version proposed by Energia engineers will be equipped with a non-flow neutralizer cathode that will make it possible to do without an additional gaseous propellant - xenon or argon. Such an engine can be used as the main propulsion system for orbit adjustments, for example, aboard communications satellites, and also for solving deep space transport tasks, Energia added.