Science Café Cleveland presents:



Electric Propulsion:
An Emerging New Paradigm for Space Propulsion


December 9, 2019



James Gilland, PhD

Senior Scientist,
Ohio Aerospace Institute



Every rocket, by definition, moves by throwing something, i.e. the propellant, overboard. Propellant goes one way—the rocket goes the other. The force exerted on the rocket depends on how much you throw, and how fast you throw it. The tradeoff, then, is:

1. Throw a lot out, but slowly. This is the rocket you grew up with—e.g. the Saturn V and the Space Shuttle. Think: burning chemicals shooting out of nozzles.

2. Throw a little out, but very fast. This is electric propulsion—using electricity and magnetism to shoot charged particles out the back.

Option 2 uses far less propellant, and so allows for smaller, cheaper space missions. Because of its savings on propellant, electric propulsion is a technology used increasingly by both civil and commercial space programs. Current examples are the NASA Deep Space I and Dawn exploration missions, hundreds of communication satellites in Earth orbit, and European spacecraft to the Moon and asteroids. And the field is growing: SpaceX recently launched 60 electrically-propelled satellites simultaneously, with plans for tens of thousands more to be launched in coming years.

Come join us this month to learn how electric propulsion works! We'll look at some of the ways that the same force that you experience when you rub a balloon and hold it to your hair can be used for propulsion. We’ll discuss how to make charged particles, how they move when you push on them, what these rockets look like, and how well they work. Along the way, the challenges involved will become evident, so we’ll also discuss how hard the next steps in the development of electric propulsion will likely be.


This month's speaker has recommended the following links for further exploration of the topic:

NASA Glenn Research Center: Solar Electric Propulsion

NASA's Dawn Mission to Ceres and Vesta

SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites, Begins Constellation Buildout | Space News




The Music Box Supper Club - Concert Hall

1148 Main Avenue

Cleveland, Ohio 44113



December 9, 2019

Doors will be open 5:30–9:00 pm (last call at 8:45pm). Presentation and discussion is from 7:00–8:00pm. The Concert Hall will also host a limited menu before and during the event, not to mention a full bar! (Click here to view menu). Come early, get a good seat, grab a bite and a beverage, and enjoy the discussion!



Sponsored by Case Western Reserve University chapter of Sigma Xi, WCPN ideastream, and the Music Box Supper Club.