A complete test system for testing the air-breathing ion thruster concept: the intake, seen to the right, collecting air molecules so that instead of simply bouncing away they are collected and compressed. The molecules collected by the intake are given electric charges so that they can be accelerated and ejected to provide thrust. A two-step thruster design ensures better charging of the incoming air, which is harder to achieve than in traditional electric propulsion designs. There are no valves or complex parts – everything works on a simple, passive basis. All that is needed is power to the coils and electrodes, creating an extremely robust drag-compensation system. The thrust fires from the right.