Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Krypton Hall effect thruster for spacecraft propulsion

Date:
October 6, 2011
Source:
Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion
Summary:
Electric propulsion (EP) is the future of astronautics. It can already compete successfully with chemical thrusters, especially for attitude control, orbit transfer and/or orbital station-keeping as well as for the main propulsion system for deep space missions. However, xenon, the propellant of choice in most EP devices, has a substantial drawback: its cost is very high. On the basis of the experience with plasma jet accelerators, a team of scientists and engineers from Poland has designed the Hall effect thruster optimised to work with krypton, a much more affordable noble gas.

Krypton Hall effect thruster for spacecraft propulsion presented by Dr Jacek Kurzyna from the Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion in Warsaw.
Credit: IFPiLM/Grzegorz Krzyżewski

Electric propulsion (EP) is the future of astronautics. It can already compete successfully with chemical thrusters, especially for attitude control, orbit transfer and/or orbital station-keeping as well as for the main propulsion system for deep space missions. However, xenon, the propellant of choice in most EP devices, has a substantial drawback: its cost is very high. On the basis of the experience with plasma jet accelerators, a team of scientists and engineers from the Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion in Warsaw has designed the Hall effect thruster optimised to work with krypton, a much more affordable noble gas.

Chemical propulsion is invaluable for the launch of payloads into space. The thrust, generated exclusively from the energy released by combustion of the propellants, is very large, but limited to durations of the order of seconds or minutes. In space, however, where atmospheric drag is negligible, technologies delivering much lower thrust over significantly longer durations (months or even years) have proven much more efficient. The leading low-thrust technology is plasma propulsion, where xenon is the preferred working gas. In the Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion (IPPLM) in Warsaw, a Hall effect thruster has been designed to work with krypton, a noble gas ten times cheaper than xenon.

The Hall effect thruster is one of several existing electric propulsion technologies. In use since the 1970s in unmanned space flights, it has made it possible to manoeuvre precisely and correct satellite orbits. Lately, devices of this type have increasingly been used as the main propulsion system for deep space missions.

Hall effect thrusters convert the propellant into a plasma and produce thrust using an external electrical power source, most typically solar panels. Plasma particles (ions and electrons) are electrically charged and can thus be accelerated by an electric field to high velocities, of the order of 15-30 km/s as is the case with Hall thrusters (in contrast, expelled gases do not reach more than 4 km/s with chemical propulsion). Plasma propulsion produces a low thrust (from a few to 1000 mN depending on available power) but can operate over long durations and ultimately increase the velocity of the spacecraft by several kilometres per second.

"Plasma jet accelerators have been studied for many years in IPPLM. Building on this experience, our team has started, in May 2008, the development of a plasma Hall effect thruster using krypton as a propellant," said Dr Jacek Kurzyna, the person responsible for the project.

The propellant used in the vast majority of Hall effect thrusters is xenon, a very rare and therefore expensive noble gas. Krypton, another noble gas, is up to ten times less expensive. Although a slightly higher energy is necessary to produce krypton ions, they are lighter than xenon ions and accordingly require lower acceleration voltages to achieve the same velocity. "From the very beginning, our thruster has been developed and optimised to operate with krypton. We had to design properly the magnetic field configuration and the appropriate magnetic circuit. Some elements had to be constructed in such a way that they can withstand increased heat loads," explains Dariusz Daniłko, a PhD student from IPPLM.

The new thruster is medium-power, continuous-thrust propulsion device. Weighing less than 5 kg, it operates at a power of about half a kilowatt. "The SMART-1 lunar space probe sent by the European Space Agency (ESA) had a xenon thruster with power below 2 kW. It accelerated the vehicle by 3,6 km/s. Our thruster could therefore prove suitable as a main propulsion system in small spacecrafts," says Dr Serge Barral from IPPLM.

The newly built Hall effect thruster is a prototype device ready to be tested in vacuum conditions. "If the outcome of the tests is positive, optimization of the device and a round of assessment tests will follow. The project, submitted to the second PECS call (Plan for European Cooperating State, an agreement concluded between Poland and ESA), has been recommended for funding. If funding is confirmed, this project will mark the beginning of the qualification process," explains Dr Kurzyna.

The research on krypton Hall effect thrusters is expected to find applications beyond the field of astronautics. Plasma accelerators are routinely used in many technological processes, inter alia, for surface cleaning by plasma sputtering or etching, surface modification and thin film (e.g. diamond-like carbon) deposition. The team of scientists from IPPLM has suggested, in particular, a deposition process of thin oxide layers for photovoltaic solar panels based on the Hall thruster technology.

The design and construction of the Hall effect thruster have been entirely funded by IPPLM.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion. "Krypton Hall effect thruster for spacecraft propulsion." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111006084023.htm>.
Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion. (2011, October 6). Krypton Hall effect thruster for spacecraft propulsion. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111006084023.htm
Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion. "Krypton Hall effect thruster for spacecraft propulsion." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111006084023.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Comparing his current crop of drones to early personal computers, DJI founder Frank Wang says the industry is poised for a growth surge - assuming regulators in more markets clear it for takeoff. Jon Gordon reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand

3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand

AP (July 30, 2014) 3-D printing is a cool technology, but it's not exactly a hands-on way to make things. Enter the 3Doodler: the pen that turns you into the 3-D printer. AP technology writer Peter Svensson takes a closer look. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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