Plasma propulsion engine
A plasma propulsion engine is a type of Ion thruster which uses plasma in some or all parts of the thrust generation process. Though far less powerful than conventional rocket engines, plasma engines are able to operate at higher efficiencies and for longer periods of time. Plasma engines are better suited for long-distance interplanetary space travel missions. 
In recent years, many agencies have developed several forms of plasma-fueled engines, including the European Space Agency, Iranian Space Agency and Australian National University, which have co-developed a more advanced type described as a double layer thruster. However, this form of plasma engine is only one of many types.
Engine types 
Helicon Double Layer Thruster 
Magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters 
Magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters (MPD) uses the Lorentz force (a force resulting from the interaction between a magnetic field and an electric current) to generate thrust - The electric charge flowing through the plasma in the presence of a magnetic field causing the plasma to accelerate due to the generated magnetic force.
Hall Effect thrusters 
Hall effect thrusters combine a strong localized static magnetic field perpendicular to the electric field created between an upstream anode and a downstream cathode called neutralizer, to create a "virtual cathode" (area of high electron density) at the exit of the device. This virtual cathode then attracts the ions formed inside the thruster closer to the anode. Finally the accelerated ion beam is neutralized by some of the electrons emitted by the neutralizer.
Electrodeless Plasma Thrusters 
SPT series 
Serial production started in Soviet Union in 1970s. One of the early variants, SPT-100 is now produced under license by European Snecma Moteurs under the name PPS-1350. SPT-290 has a thrust of 1.5N, 5-30kW power and specific impulse 30km/s, efficiency 65% and weight 23kg.
VASIMR, or Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, works by using radio waves to ionize a propellant into a plasma and then a magnetic field to accelerate the plasma out of the back of the rocket engine to generate thrust. The VASIMR is currently being developed by the private company Ad Astra Rocket Company, headquartered in Houston, TX with of help from a NS Canada based company Nautel, producing the 200kW RF generators for ionizing propellant. Some of the components and "Plasma Shoots" experiments are tested in a laboratory settled in Liberia, Costa Rica. This project is led by former NASA astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang-Díaz (CRC-USA). Recently the Costa Rican Aerospace Alliance announced the cooperation to this project by developing an exterior support device for the VASIMR to be fitted in the exterior of the International Space Station, as part of the plan to test the VASIMR in space, this test phase is now expected to be conducted in 2014. The VF-200 engine could reduce the duration of flight from Earth to Jupiter or Saturn from six years to fourteen months, and Mars from 4 months to 39 days. 
See also 
- Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket
- Magnetic sail
- Electrodeless plasma thruster
- Magnetoplasmadynamic thruster
- Helicon Double Layer Thruster
- Ion propulsion
- Spacecraft propulsion
- List of plasma (physics) articles
- "N.S. company helps build plasma rocket". cbcnews. January 2010. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Plasma engine passes initial test
- PRL - Helicon Double Layer Thruster Development
- Elizabeth A. Thomson (2009). "MIT rocket aims for cheaper nudges in space". MIT. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- MIT (2009). "Scientists develop new plasma thruster". UPI. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- Zyga, Lisa (2009). Plasma Rocket Could Travel to Mars in 39 Days.http://phys.org/news174031552.html Physorg
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