μPPT Development - Micro Pulsed Plasma Thruster Development for Micro- to Picosatellite Applications
Satellites of reduced mass continue to dominate near term flight manifests. Educational institutions throughout the world are currently developing picosatellites (satellites with a mass of less than 1 kg). The incorporation of active on board propulsion systems increases mission lifetime and the diversity of the missions which may be undertaken by small satellites. Therefore suitable propulsion systems must be developed which conform to the stringent mass and power requirements imposed by the miniaturisation of satellite systems.
To attempt to incorporate a propulsion system into a picosatellite is therefore a highly ambitious goal. However, the benefits of exploiting active on board propulsion as a mission enabling technology outweigh the increased system complexity and cost by far. The miniaturised PPT will also be suitable for micro and nanosatellite missions.
The μPPT is an ideal candidate for miniaturisation due to its structural simplicity. The use of solid propellant also forgoes the use of complex propellant feed systems. The μPPT also has the advantage of operating at low power levels compared to alternative electric thrusters. In the present study the main areas of investigation are the influence of electrode geometry on performance and the identification of appropriate circuit para - meters in order to optimise μPPT operation.
A performance with an impulse bit in the range of 10 - 30 μNs, specific impulse greater than 500 s, total impulse of 50 - 500 Ns and power of approximately 2 W is envisaged. These performance criteria will provide the capability to perform station keeping and attitude control tasks for a picosatellite as well as precision pointing to an accuracy of ± 1o.
Further investigations will be performed on the electronics of the μPPT. The miniaturisation of the discharge initiation system and energy storage system are also critical to the viability of this technology for picosatellite applications.
ARC Austrian Research Centers GmbH, Space Propulsion & Advanced Concepts - Dr. Carsten Scharlemann
Austrian Research Centers GmbH - ARC
Space Propulsion & Advanced Concepts
Dr. Carsten Scharlemann
Tel.: +43 (505) 50 - 3143