Encyclopedia Astronautica
Electric/Mercury


The many versions of electric engines use electric or magnetic fields to accelerate ionized elements to high velocity, creating thrust. The power source can be a nuclear reactor or thermal-electric generator, or solar panels. Proposed as propellant for some ion motors.

Oxidizer: Electric. Fuel: Mercury. Fuel Density: 13.500 g/cc. Fuel Freezing Point: -39 deg C. Fuel Boiling Point: 357 deg C.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Spacecraft
  • Ion American space tug. Study 1990. 1970's conceptual design of ion upper stage sized for use in the shuttle. It was nuclear-electric and intended for trans-Jovian planetary missions More...

Associated Engines
  • IAPS Hughes electric/mercury rocket engine. Isp=2500s. Ion Auxiliary Propulsion System work took place in the 1974-1983. Flight ready article prepared, but not flown due to budget cuts. More...
  • Ion Notional electric/mercury rocket engine. 0.275 kN. Study 1981. Conceptual ion engine design of the 1970's for a shuttle-sized upper stage. Isp=5300s. More...
  • SEPST JPL, Hughes, TRW electric/mercury rocket engine. 88 mN. Isp=3600s. The Solar Electric Propulsion System Technology program of 1960-1980 demonstrated a complete breadboard ion propulsion system that would be applicable to an interplanetary spacecraft. More...
  • SEPS Hughes, TRW, NASA Cleveland electric/mercury rocket engine. 128 mN Isp=3000s. Solar Electric Propulsion Stage program, started in the early 1970s, a goal to provide a primary ion propulsion system operating at a fixed power for Earth orbital applications. More...
  • Sert-I Mercury NASA Cleveland electric/mercury rocket engine. 28 mN. Developed 1962-1964. Isp=4900s. 10 cm diameter mercury electron bombardment ion engine used on the first successful flight test of ion propulsion on a Scout X-4 launch vehicle. More...
  • Sert II NASA Cleveland electric/mercury rocket engine. 28 mN. Flown in 1970. Isp=4200s. The thruster for the Sert-II test consisted of two electron bombardment engines using mercury propellant. More...
  • SIT- 5 Hughes electric/mercury rocket engine. 2.1 mN. Isp=3000s. 5 cm diameter mercury ion engine, developed 1970 for attitude control and north-south stationkeeping of geosynchronous satellites. More...

Associated Stages
  • Ion Electric/Mercury propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 15,627/5,498 kg. Thrust 0.27 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 5300 seconds. 1970's conceptual design of ion upper stage sized for use in the shuttle. It was nuclear-electric and intended for trans-Jovian planetary missions More...

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