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Challenge: Ion Only

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Okay folks, time for a test of craft-building skill. The challenge is thus. Construct and fly a fixed-wing aircraft powered only by ion propulsion engines. Goals to shoot for are as follows:

  • Highest altitude
  • Distance traveled over land
  • Highest speed over land/surface speed
  • Flight duration
  • Vehicle size (smallest? largest?)


  • STOCK PARTS ONLY (The exception to this is the currently accepted mods for the AWSA KMP server, aka MechJeb)
  • No control surface spamming (Tends to create un-realistic lift ratios)
  • No boosters or launch assistance. Ion drives ONLY
  • Separation/drop-tanks allowed, feel free to shed that empty weight.
  • Atmospheric flight only. Feel free to press the altitude envelope, but nothing above 70km

Some helpful tips:

  • It takes the approximate electricity of 1 Gigantor panel or 20 generators to power a single Ion engine at full power.
  • Eject your landing gear after take-off, its just dead weight
  • Launch your craft as early in the Kerbin day/night cycle as possible in order to prolong your panel exposure to sunlight.

Here is my submission to the challenge, noted to be my first-ever ion-powered plane to make it off the runway. It gracefully lifted from the pavement at a takeoff speed of a whopping 13m/s. I disconnected my landing gear once I made it over the water, and she floated at an average speed of 14m/s. I tried my best to launch at a good time, about 9am Kerbin time, just enough to power my panels. Unfortunately night time caught up with me and the battery went out quick, but it took almost another hour for it to fall out of the sky.

  • Flight time: 3 hours 51 minutes 8 seconds (actual game time, physics warp x4)
  • Highest altitude: 1624m
  • Highest speed over land: 175m/s (wut? closer to 14-15m/s)
  • Distance traveled over land: 185,021m

See gallery here (cant seem to get it to display properly within my post)

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To put things in perspective, an ion engine on a small rover lander can't even produce enough thrust to compete with Minmus' gravity. It's insanely non-powerful lol.

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