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Chinese space designers have devised a pocket-size device they say can extend small satellites’ life spans and help prevent them from becoming hazardous space debris, China Daily reported.

The ion liquid electric thruster was developed by the 206th Institute under the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. and has undergone in-orbit tests on a small, experimental Chinese satellite launched earlier this year.

Compared with conventional rocket engines that generate propulsion using chemical propellants, these new ion thrusters use liquid metals — usually cesium, indium or mercury — as propellants, allowing spacecraft to carry much less fuel than before, the report said.

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Category: Science