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NASA successfully tests two aerospike solid rocket engines.
NASA has successfully tested two small aerospike solid rocket engines, demonstrating the capabilities of this new technology. An aerospike engine is like a regular rocket, but flipped inside out. Instead of the traditional bell-shaped nozzle, and aerospike can change the flow of its exhaust throughout its flight, maximizing its performance. The two 3-metre rockets reached Mach 1.5 and an altitude of 8,000 metres. This is the first time aerospike engines have actually been tested in flight.
By chasing dust devils across the desert with a specially equipped truck, scientists have discovered that on Earth at least, they can generate a high-voltage electric field. This has implications for future exploration on Mars since much larger dust devils crisscross the surface of the Red Planet. This situation happens because the dust particles in the mini-twister rub together and become charged; the negative particles are carried high into the air while the positive particles stay lower down. Future robotic missions to Mars will hope to measure the strength and danger these electric devils might pose down the road.
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