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Russian aerospace firm to test new rocket engine operating on iodine

The experiment is planned for 2022

MOSCOW, June 21. /TASS/. Russia’s Energia Rocket and Space Corporation is developing a new electric propulsion rocket engine operating on iodine and its tests are planned for late June, the Energia press office reported on Thursday.

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.

"The developers will hold the ground tests of the propulsion unit already in late June," project co-head and design engineer Pavel Shcherbina was quoted by the Energia press office as saying.

Energia specialists have patented an iodine storage and feed system for the future electric propulsion rocket engine, the press office said.

"The Ostrovsky experiment is planned for 2022. It was named in honor of Valery Ostrovsky, the corporation’s senior researcher and the author of the idea to use ‘pure’ reactive iodine as the engine’s propellant - the substance that is necessary to get the thrust impulse. The first part of the experiment is expected to be held aboard the ISS and the second part will be carried out with the use of a Progress cargo spacecraft. After undocking, the spacecraft will stay in orbit for another month to test new iodine electric propulsion rocket engines," the Energia press office said.

New engine’s advantages

As its advantage, the new iodine engine is, first of all, cost effective, the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation said.

"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.

As Energia said, iodine is kept well in its solid state and can be easily converted into gas without using a multi-stage pressure reducing system.

"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 said.