Adrian Harvey writes:
The New Zealand based commercial space company Rocket Lab has unveiled their new rocket engine which the media is describing as battery-powered. It still uses fuel, of course, but has an entirely new propulsion cycle which uses electric motors to drive its turbopumps.
To add to the interest over the design, it uses 3D printing for all its primary components. First launch is expected this year, with commercial operations commencing in 2016.
Electric thrusters are essentially useless for launching from the ground to space because their maximum acceleration tends to be a lot less than 1 g.
But once you're even in very low orbit, the thrust to (fuel) mass ratio of a nuclear power supply is gigantic. You can burn almost indefinitely, and get between space locations much faster.
This isn't an ion engine. It's a chemical rocket with some electric parts in it, and should be compared to other chemical rockets.
Oh, too bad. Sorry.
I don't mean to lie to people.
I made the same mistake when I read the headline. "Electric rocket" is shocking terminology.