Despite uncertain government budgets and the ongoing government shutdown, more than 443 people attended the conference, delivering 356 technical papers on solar electric propulsion (SEP), a form of highly efficient spacecraft propulsion in which the propulsion system uses electricity generated by the spacecraft's solar panels to accelerate the propellant to very high speeds. Papers ranged in subjects from basic research on new technologies for micropropulsion to large scale SEP vehicle concepts for missions such as
"Record-breaking international participation of 25 countries, in addition to overall record number of participants, is a testament of significant growth and recognition of the electric propulsion field," said
Space propulsion is required for satellite motion in the outer space. The displacement of a satellite in space, orbit transfer and its attitude control are the task of space propulsion, which is carried out by rocket engines. In principle, there are two major types of rocket engines which are distinguished by the energy source used: chemical and electric. Electric propulsion uses electrical energy to energize or to accelerate the propellant. This is the main advantage of electric over chemical propulsion, since the amount of energy is limited to external sources only.
The conference also included a presentation of the Ernst Stuhlinger medal to Hitoshi Kuninaka. Dr. Kuninaka was the principal investor of the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft, which used ion propulsion to return samples of the asteroid Itokawa to Earth.
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