Dawn Classrooms > Structure and Properties of Matter: Ion Propulsion Module
Welcome to the Structure and Properties of Matter: Ion Propulsion module. This standards aligned module is intended to engage students and the interested public in the propulsion technology that is necessary for Dawn to complete its mission. As students interact with this module, they will gain an understanding of :
- charges and relative charge
- momentum and frames of reference
- ionization and plasma
- how an ion propulsion system works
- experiment with designing an ion engine to determine optimal conditions using an interactive simulation
This module is organized around a learning cycle and engages students in a number of experiences in order for the teacher to activate students’ prior knowledge, assess student conceptual understanding in order to inform instruction.
How Do We Get There?
Just like a mission briefing for the press, the purpose of this section of the module is to provide students with some background information about the Dawn mission and the need for a spacecraft with ion propulsion in order to meet mission objectives.
We Need a Push
The Exploration section of this Ion Propulsion Module focuses on the basic science necessary for understanding the design and operation of an ion propulsion engine.
Charges (PDF) Student Reading
Pushing with Plasma (PDF) Student Reading
Attractive and Repulsive Forces (PDF) Student Activity
Attractive and Repulsive Forces (PDF) Student Reporting Sheet
Positive and Negative Charges Interactive Simulation
Where Are We?
Students will develop an understanding that motion is relative by reading the text “Frames of Reference.” As a follow-up to the reading, engage students in a writing-to-learn strategy that can help students understand how motion depends on specific frames of reference, as they are asked to assume a specific frame of reference and describe motion in relation to multiple perspectives.
Getting Charged Up
In the Interaction/Synthesis section of the Ion Propulsion Module, students will follow a single xenon atom as it travels through an ion propulsion engine, putting together the scientific concepts that play a part in moving the Dawn spacecraft.
Design an Ion Engine
Students apply the background information from this module to determine what Plate Location settings and what Plate Charge produces the most thrust for the engine.
Dr. Donna Bogner, McREL
Dr. B.J. McCormick, McREL
Dr. John Brophy, Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Cal Tech.
V. Art Hammond, Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Cal Tech.
John Ristvey, McREL
Deb Aruca, McREL
Dr. Marc Rayman, Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Cal Tech.
Joe Wise, New Roads School, Center for Effective Learning
Judy Counley, McREL
Lisa Maxfield, McREL
Pilot Test Teacher
Rick Peterson, Central High School, Grand Junction, CO