Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Engine Helps Satellites Blast Off With Less Fuel

Date:
February 26, 2007
Source:
Georgia Institute of Technology
Summary:
Georgia Tech researchers have a created a new satellite technology that allows satellites to blast off with less fuel, opening the door for deep space missions, lower launch costs and more hardware on board.

Dr. Mitchell Walker, an assistant professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, tests an engine. (Credit: Image courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology)
Credit: Image courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech researchers have developed a new protoype engine that allows satellites to take off with less fuel, opening the door for deep space missions, lower launch costs and more payload in orbit.

Related Articles


The efficient satellite engine uses up to40 percent less fuel by running on solar power while in space and by fine-tuning exhaust velocity. Satellites using the Georgia Tech engine to blast off can carry more payload thanks to the mass freed up by the smaller amount of fuel needed for the trip into orbit. Or, if engineers wanted to use the reduced fuel load another way, the satellite could be launched more cheaply by using a smaller launch vehicle.

The fuel-efficiency improvements could also give satellites expanded capabilities, such as more maneuverability once in orbit or the ability to serve as a refueling or towing vehicle.

The Georgia Tech project, lead by Dr. Mitchell Walker, an assistant professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, was funded by a grant from the U.S. Air Force. The project team made significant experimental modifications to one of five donated satellite engines from aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney to create the final prototype.

The key to the engine improvements, said Walker, is the ability to optimize the use of available power, very similar to the transmission in a car. A traditional chemical rocket engine (attached to a satellite ready for launch) runs at maximum exhaust velocity until it reaches orbit, i.e. first gear.

The new Georgia Tech engine allows ground control units to adjust the engine’s operating gear based on the immediate propulsive need of the satellite. The engine operates in first gear to maximize acceleration during orbit transfers and then shifts to fifth gear once in the desired orbit. This allows the engine to burn at full capacity only during key moments and conserve fuel.

“You can really tailor the exhaust velocity to what you need from the ground,” Walker said.

The Georgia Tech engine operates with an efficient ion propulsion system. Xenon (a noble gas) atoms are injected into the discharge chamber. The atoms are ionized, (electrons are stripped from their outer shell), which forms xenon ions. The light electrons are constrained by the magnetic field while the heavy ions are accelerated out into space by an electric field, propelling the satellite to high speeds.

Tech’s significant improvement to existing xenon propulsion systems is a new electric and magnetic field design that helps better control the exhaust particles, Walker said. Ground control units can then exercise this control remotely to conserve fuel.

The satellite engine is almost ready for military applications, but may be several years away from commercial use, Walker added.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgia Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Georgia Institute of Technology. "New Engine Helps Satellites Blast Off With Less Fuel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070222155503.htm>.
Georgia Institute of Technology. (2007, February 26). New Engine Helps Satellites Blast Off With Less Fuel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070222155503.htm
Georgia Institute of Technology. "New Engine Helps Satellites Blast Off With Less Fuel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070222155503.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

AP (Nov. 21, 2014) Marine Corps officials say a special operations officer left paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan walked using robotic leg braces in a ceremony to award him a Bronze Star. (Nov. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
British 'Bio-Bus' Is Powered By Human Waste

British 'Bio-Bus' Is Powered By Human Waste

Buzz60 (Nov. 21, 2014) British company GENeco debuted what its calling the Bio-Bus, a bus fueled entirely by biomethane gas produced from food scraps and sewage. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins