PAx thruster

THE CHALLENGE: Print My Rocket

Design a rocket that could be built in place inside one of the four bays of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center, which is 525 ft (160 m) tall. Utilize additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) where possible, considering which materials might be able to be used and which ones may have to be brought in already manufactured.


3D printable Ion thruster.

Designing an entire rocket is a rather big task for a single person team and so I decided to design one of the most crucial parts of a rocket: the thruster.


1 - Electricity sparks from the fuel rod to the graphite rod to dislodge metal particles

2 - The magnetron excites the particles further into generating a plasma

3 - Some electrons are stripped away from the plasma and go through the Anode (which has now made a CRT of sorts) this creates positive ions which are then accelerated through the Cathode - this is the first step that generates thrust.

4 - As the ions pass through the cores of the Quadrupole magnets they get focused into a narrow beam - also providing another stage of thrust?

5 - The ion beam passes through the accelerator rings/tubes of which produce an alternating electric fields which are generated from a Radio Frequency source. This is the main source of ion acceleration and thus produces the most thrust.

6 - Finally the beam passes through an electro-magnetic "rudder" to give the vessel some steering and control.


More fuel efficient than other Ion Thrusters (upto 1000x better fuel economy)

Can be very cost effective to make (a working home made version can be done for only a few hundred $)

Could possibly get to nearly relative speeds (0.1-0.2c)

Fuel source is almost any metal (e.g. iron, aluminium or even lead) so fuel is able to be scavenged from decommissioned satellites and other "space junk".


Can require lots of energy (small model will require at least 1kW)

Also low thrust output like Ion thrusters have.

Resources Used

Google and wikipedia, MS paint, a mechanical pencil, a 1J5 text book (5mm squares).

Made inAuckland New Zealand
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