To put it simply, propulsion is the creation of force that leads to movement, but with today's technological and engineering advances, we're able to move ships across the ocean and put spacecrafts in the sky. Soon, developments in propulsion will lead to new scientific products, more efficient machinery and even lower gas mileage.
"Propulsion, specifically space propulsion, is based on the third law of motion which means that for every action there's a return reaction," Tim O'Donnell of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told The Huffington Post's Katie Linendoll. "In space, when you turn on a thruster or an engine, you propel that spacecraft away from the direction of the thrust."
To get a spacecraft into orbit, it takes thousands of gallons of propellant and various thruster sizes, which fire off in multiple stages. A nearly unfathomable 6,800,000 pounds of force is used to propel spacecrafts into space.
Engineers have made a few recent discoveries that will affect the future of space propulsion. The first is magnetic shielding technology, which will help hall thrusters last 1,000 times longer than the present hall thrusters. Meanwhile, NASA is also working on the world's smallest propulsion systems, which are the size of a sugar cube.
Back on Earth, automotive propulsion is making major strides, too. "Automotive propulsion has become clearer and more fuel efficient," auto expert Michael Caudill said. "Most of the gains to date have occurred with the internal combustion engine, both from vehicle improvement, such as lower mass and better aerodynamics, as well as engine improvements, such as turbo charging or start/stop technology."
Down the road, automotive propulsion is expected to evolve greatly, especially with advances in electric power. Not only will they become more fuel efficient, but automakers are experimenting with battery and engine technology that could result in cars running on hydrogen fuel cells, solar power and even nuclear power one day.
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