SMART-1 EPDP - Co-Investigator on Electric Propulsion Diagnostic Package (EPDP) for European SMART-1 Satellite
SMART-1, launched in fall 2003, is Europe’s first moon satellite. It shall demonstrate Solar-Electric Propulsion using a PPS-1350 hall thruster.
One of the main mission investigations is the characterization of the thruster’s charge-exchange ion environment. Two instruments support this analysis: EPDP, consisting of a Langmuir probe, RPA analyser and a solar cell sample, and SPEDE, consisting of two current collection spheres supported by two short booms.
ARC Seibersdorf research developed a Particle-In-Cell plasma simulation to support and predict the thruster’s induced plasma environment around SMART-1. This is very important as this contamination can cause spacecraft charging, surface sparking, and torques due to asymmetric ion backflow or solar cell degradation caused by sputtering.
During the flight of SMART-1, an unexpected cyclic variation of the floating potential of the thruster cathode and the spacecraft itself was detected. Our tool was able to explain this variation with the interactions of the thruster plume and the solar array.
The software SMARTPIC, verified with flight data, will be a valuable tool for spacecraft and mission designers for future electric propulsion missions such as BepiColombo to avoid floating potential variations and to optimize the orientation of the thruster with the rest of the spacecraft.
ARC Seibersdorf research GmbH - Martin Tajmar (Space Propulsion)