Ablative pulsed plasma thruster for small spacecraft

Aerospace propulsion engineering


D'yakonov G. A.1*, Lyubinskaya N. V.1**, Semenikhin S. A.1*, Khrustaliov M. M.2***

1. Moscow Aviation Institute (National Research University), 4, Volokolamskoe shosse, Moscow, А-80, GSP-3, 125993, Russia
2. V.A. Trapeznikov Institute of Control Sciences of Russian Academy of Sciences, 65, Profsoyuznaya str., Moscow, 117997, Russia

*e-mail: riame@sokol.ru
**e-mail: riame3@sokol.ru
***e-mail: mmkhrustalev@mail.ru


Special attention is recently paid to small spacecraft (SSC) with a mass of a few to several tens of kilograms. But for a SSC to become controllable there is a need to develop a highly efficient and compact thruster for the orbit correction and keeping. Appropriate propulsion system should be designed in view of the limitations for mass and power on board. The propulsion system must be lightweight, space-saving and cheap with high efficiency in power consumption of up to about 25 W.
The ablative pulsed plasma thrusters (APPT) are promising for such purposes, as they have several important advantages: instant readiness for operation, extremely low inertia and the almost complete absence of the afteraction pulse, the possibility for precise impulse control, long enough lifetime, as well as the linear variation of the thrust control characteristic.
A family of small APPT models with ultra low energy developed and manufactured at the RIAME MAI is reviewed in the paper. The test results allow considering such thrusters as the most promising for the SSC orbit correction.
A physical-mathematical model developed at the RIAME MAI is presented in the paper also. This model describes operation of the low-energy and low-power APPT. Its computer implementation makes it possible to trace the influence of variations in different input data on the APPT performance. A comparison of theory and experiment revealed good enough agreement of the results.
A set of the electrical circuit parameters (inductance, capacitance) is defined for the ultra-low power APPT, which provide maximum operation efficiency.


plasma acceleration, plasmoid, ablative pulsed plasma thruster


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