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Ion Propulsion Test Tube, R. H. Goddard


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Rockets and Missiles exhibition at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

This glass tube device was used in experiments by U.S. rocket pioneer Robert H. Goddard during 1924-1928 to determine the feasibility of ion propulsion for space flight. Ion propulsion, in which electrically charged particles of atoms called ions are discharged, produces extremely rapid exhaust velocities. Because of this and their long duration of operation, ion engines are ideal for deep space propulsion.

However, they produce very low thrusts and must be placed in space by larger conventional chemical propellant rocket boosters. Experiments with ion propulsion in space occured when the first succesful Space Electric Test (SERT-1) took place in 1964. This object was donated to the Smithsonian in 1965 by Esther C. Goddard.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


Dr. Robert H. Goddard

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Robert Goddard


Glass with copper wires and hardened wax over ends of some of the tubes; silver or chrome colored tube inserted into part of main tube, possibly shined aluminum or silver.


3-D: 80 x 10.2 x 1.9cm (31 1/2 x 4 x 3/4 in.)

See more items in

National Air and Space Museum Collection

Country of Origin

United States of America


ca. 1926



Inventory Number