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"Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today -- but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."
- Isaac Asimov

Sun-Powered Ionic Drive Motor  
  A rocket propulsion system that takes solar energy to power an ion drive.  

They had won twenty-five hundred dollars during the summer for building a working model of a sun-powered ionic drive motor—the kind useful for deep-space propulsion, but far too weak in thrust to be any good, starting from the ground. The contest had been sponsored by—of all outfits—a big food chain, Trans-Columbia. But this wasn't so strange. Everybody was interested in, or affected by, interplanetary travel, now.

On a workbench, standing amid a litter of metal chips and scraps of color-coded wire, was the Bunch's second ionic, full-size this time, and almost finished. On crossed arms it mounted four parabolic mirrors; its ion guide was on a universal joint. Out There, in orbit or beyond, and in full, spatial sunlight, its jetting ions would deliver ten pounds of continuous thrust.

From The Planet Strappers, by Raymond Z. Gallun.
Published by Pyramid Books in 1961
Additional resources -

They provide enough power for asteroid landings and exploration:

The three stellene rings bumped lightly on the ten mile chunk of captured asteroidal rock and nickel-iron that was Phobos, Mars' nearer moon. Gravitation was almost nil. There was no need, here, for rockets, to land or take off. The sun-powered ionics were more than enough.

Compare to the ion drive from Equalizer (1947), by Jack Williamson; this is the first use of the term in science fiction. The earliest use of this idea is Positive Ray Propulsion from The Prince of Space (1931) by Jack Williamson. Also, see the T.I.E. fighters from the Star Wars novelization by George Lucas.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Planet Strappers
  More Ideas and Technology by Raymond Z. Gallun
  Tech news articles related to The Planet Strappers
  Tech news articles related to works by Raymond Z. Gallun

Sun-Powered Ionic Drive Motor-related news articles:
  - Aerojet Rocketdyne 'Ion Drive' To Reach The Asteroids? (Update!)

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