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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Ion Drive  
  A space drive that emits a stream of ions as reaction mass; it starts out slow but builds up to interstellar speeds.  

Lifecraft 18 was a trim steel missile, lying snug in its berth tube amidships of the Great Director. Eighty feet long and slim as a pencil, it had its own ion drive, a regular crew of six, and plenty of additional space for our party...


('The Equalizer' by Jack Williamson)

In the acceleration lounge, we hung weightless for a few seconds, as we dropped away from the flagship; then the thrust of our own ion drive forced us back into the cushions, with a two-gravity acceleration.

From Equalizer, by Jack Williamson.
Published by Astounding S-F in 1947
Additional resources -

I believe that the T.I.E. fighters from Star Wars also used a form of ion propulsion, but maybe a bit zippier. Also, compare to the sun-powered ionic motor from The Planet Strappers (1961), by Raymond Z. Gallun. The earliest use of this idea is Positive Ray Propulsion from The Prince of Space (1931) by Jack Williamson. See also the use of finely divided dust as propellant from Earthlight (1955) by Arthur C. Clarke.

One popular recent use of the idea of pushing a spacecraft with a fine stream of ions is as a kind of mini-thruster for tiny satellites. Take a look at these stories:

Compare to these propulsion systems: Light Pressure Propulsion (1867), apergy (1880), Beam-Powered Propulsion (1931), Granton motor (1933), Vibration-Propelled Cruiser (1928), geodynes (1936), ion drive (1947), Planetary Propulsion-Blasts (1934), stardrive (1953), solar sail (light sail) (1962), Lyle drive (1961), laser cannon (1966), Bussard ramjet (1976), asymptotic drive (1976), Interstellar Laser Propulsion System (1985).

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Equalizer
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Williamson
  Tech news articles related to Equalizer
  Tech news articles related to works by Jack Williamson

Ion Drive-related news articles:
  - SMART-1's Ion Drive Not Science Fiction
  - UM Hall Thruster Breaks Records

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