2005 年 4 巻 p. 21-27
A completely new solar electric propulsion concept, the Air Breathing Ion Engine (ABIE), has been proposed for spacecraft drag makeup at very low altitudes, ranging from 150 to 200 km. ABIE scoops up neutral atoms and molecules traveling at an orbital velocity of approximately 8 km/s, ionizes them by means of an electron cyclotron resonance plasma source that is efficient in a wide range of low gas pressures, and accelerates the ionized air particles electrostatically to exhaust velocities larger than 100 km/s. The key technology of this thruster is the design of a propellant inlet which allows the incoming flow to enter the discharge chamber, yet it prevents the thermalized gas from escaping upstream. In this system, an air-breathing-type neutralizer may also be employed, in which case the need to carry on-board xenon propellant is eliminated and results in gains in payload mass if the mission duration is longer than 2 years. This technology should give researchers access to a part of the atmosphere that is currently very difficult to measure and is thus called the "ignorosphere." Promising applications other than aeronomy include science missions involving accurate gravity and magnetic field mapping, and high-resolution Earth surveillance.