FRC Multi-Mode Thruster Validation Demonstration
Agency / Branch:
DOD / USAF
ABSTRACT: Modern military space systems use high specific impulse (Isp) propulsion systems to provide efficient station keeping and large delta-V orbital maneuvers. A multi-mode propulsion system utilizes a single propellant such as AF-M315E to provide high thrust as well as a 1000-4000 s Isp. By utilizing the same propellant in multiple thrusters an entire new range of mission operations are possible. The same spacecraft design and propulsion subsystem can be used over a wide range of mission operations from orbital plane changes to station keeping. Perhaps most importantly is the ability to provide on command dynamic mission changes for avoidance, for rendezvous, or precision observation all without a preordained mission set. The proposed development program will demonstrate and characterize the EMPT-MM, a 1.6 - 5 kW FRC thruster capable of efficient operation of Hydrazine, Xenon, and AF-M315E. In Phase I a direct liquid injection and pre-ionization system was demonstrated. In Phase II, this injector will be combined with a 1 kW thruster that will be demonstrated at MSNW and AFRL facilities running in steady operation on full AF-M315E propellant. At the conclusion of Phase II, a high-efficiency, wide specific impulse range multi-mode thruster will be developed, demonstrated, and delivered to AFRL. BENEFIT: Modern lightweight solar panel technology, such as the DARPA FAST program, has created a unique need for lightweight, efficient, and highly variable power Electric Propulsion.T the ability to use complex propellants such as Air, AF-M315E, or Hydrazine would allow a dramatic shift in the capabilities of DOD spacecraft. An EP system operating at high specific impulse on monopropellants could be retasked indefinitely between station keeping and rapid orbital maneuvers using a single propellant. Additionally, the ability to use ambient atmospheric gases would enable highly-eccentric orbits that use ambient Air for orbit raising and drag reduction for very low orbits. The Multi-Mode FRC thruster has definite payoffs for long-term military missions. This technology has direct applicability to missions involving Space Situational Awareness, orbit raising tugs, Dynamic and operationally responsive space, as well as all high delta-V missions such as plane changes. A Multi-Mode electric propulsion system capable of operation with any complex, liquid propellant has applications for DOD high-power EP, DOD rapid response propulsion, and NASA science missions.
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