Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new X3 thruster in a cooperation with #NASA and the U.S. Airforce, which could take humans to the Red Planet in the following two decades, Futurism reported. Basically, the X3 thruster is a system that exerts thrust on spacecraft with the help of a stream of ions (#Electrically Charged atoms).

The X3 thruster's team said that recently, it had broken all records of generating maximum power output while testing in Genn Research Center of NASA in Ohio. This new ion engine produced higher speeds than a chemical propulsion rocket, NASA said.

Hall thruster v.s. a chemical rocket

Futurism wrote that a Hall thruster can produce a maximum speed of 25 miles/second, while a chemical rocket can reach up to a maximum speed of 1.86 miles/second. Researchers said that ion engines are more efficient than engines powered by the chemical.

A Hall thruster technology is absolutely perfect to carry astronauts to a long journey into space, especially to Mars with the consumption of fewer propellant, Alec Gallimore (project leader) said, Space.com reported.

NASA's space probe, Dawn, is currently orbiting Ceres, a dwarf planet, whose propulsion system works on three xenon ion thrusters which is a common propellant for ion thrusters.

One of the major disadvantages of using chemical-fueled engine is that astronauts should carry it with spacecraft which adds more mass and then requires more fuel to be taken into space. A Bussard ramjet is a theoretical method of spacecraft propulsion, which collects and compress hydrogen from interstellar medium to use it as the fuel which shows that the rocket could approach the speed of light, according to Futurism.

Highest power ever recorded

Gallimore said that his team operated a Hall thruster at a power range between 5KW to 102KW, and it generated 5.4 N of thrust, which is considered as the highest thrust level ever recorded by using plasma thruster. Last highest value of thrust recorded was 3.3 N, according to Space.com.

He also said, "You can think of electric propulsion as having 10 times the miles per gallon compared to chemical propulsion, Gallimore." He suggested that instead of one channel of plasma, three channels of plasma would be used to make X3 thruster smaller in size and more compact. He said, "We call it a nested channel." Gallimore's team will run the thruster nonstop for 100 hours in 2018 to check its maximum limit.