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A Seminar on



P R O F. N A D K A R N I

P.E . S . M O D E R N C O L L E G E O F E N G I N E E R I N G , P U N E - 4 110 0 5 .
Literature Review
Sr. Name of Authors Title of Research Paper Summary of Paper
1 Martinez Sanchez Spacecraft Electric Propulsion This paper addresses the growing use of
et al electric propulsion in the spacecraft
2 Marco Sabbadini Electric Spacecraft This paper discusses the Electric
et al Propulsion-ESA propulsion technologys applications of
satellites and space etc
3 Robert G. Jahn et Physics Of Electric Propulsion This text systematically develops the
al concepts of electrical acceleration of
gases for propulsion.
4 Dan M. Goebel et Fundamentals Of Electric This literature contains several books
al Propulsion from the 1960s and numerous journal
5 John R. Brophy et Electric Propulsion for Solar This paper describes the evaluation of
al System Exploration possible advanced solar electric
Aim and Objectives

Aim Electric Propulsion

To understand how electric propulsion works by describing the fundamental
physics of these devices
To study its various types and their working
To study its space applications
To study its future scope

Electrical and electromagnetic rockets differ from chemical rockets with respect to
their performance limitations.
Chemical rockets are essentially energy limited, since the quantity of energy (per
unit mass of propellant) that can be released during combustion is limited by the
fundamental chemical behavior of propellant materials.
Hence Isp of chemical rockets is limited to 450 to 500 s. On theother hand, in
electrical rockets a separate energy source (eg. Nuclear or solar) is used, hence
much higher propellant energy is possible.
The electric rocket engine is a device that converts electric power into a forward-
directed force or thrust by accelerating an ionized propellant (e.g argon, or xenon)
to a very high exhaust velocity.
Types Of Electric Propulsion

1. Electrothermal
Propellant is electrically heated through wall (resistojet) or by electrical
arc discharge (arcjet)
Thermal rocket and our model for thermal thrust chamber applicable
2. Electrostatic
Charged particles (ions) accelerated by electrostatic forces (Ion, Hall
Effect and Kaufmann type thrusters)
3. Electromagnetic
Electrically conducting fluid accelerated by electromagnetic and
pressure forces (Magnetoplasmadynamic Thruster (MPD, PPT))
Comparison Of EP systems

Electrothermal Electrostatic Electromagnetic

Acceleration Pressure, Electrostatic, Lorentz, Fm
force p Fe,Static Electric Magnetic and
Electrically heat field alone Electric
propellant accelerates fields accelerate
and use charged charged
nozzle expansion particles particles

Specific 300-1,500 2000-100,000+ 1,000-10,000

Thrust <10^-3 <10^-4 <10^-4 to 10^-6
Electrothermal Propulsion

The electrothermal category groups the devices where electromagnetic fields are used to
generate plasma to increase the temperature of the bulk propellant.
The thermal energy imparted to the propellant gas is then converted into kinetic energy
by a nozzle of either solid material or magnetic fields.
Low molecular weight gases (e.g. hydrogen, helium, ammonia) are preferred propellants
for this kind of system.
An electrothermal engine uses a nozzle to convert the heat of a gas into the linear motion
of its molecules so it is a true rocket even though the energy producing the heat comes
from an external source.

1. Resistojets
2. Arcjets

Resistojets are electrothermal devices in which the propellant is heated by
passing through a resistively heated chamber or over a resistively heated
element before entering a downstream nozzle. The increase in exhaust
velocity is due to the thermal heating of the propellant, which limits the Isp
to low levels (<500 s).

Fig. Low power hydrazine arcjets in use
on TelStar IV communication satellites

An arcjet is also an electrothermal thruster that heats the propellant by passing

it though a high current arc in line with the nozzle feed system. While there is
an electric discharge involved in the propellant path, plasma effects are
insignificant in the exhaust velocity because the propellant is weakly ionized.
The Isp is limited by the thermal heating to less than about 700 s for easily
stored propellants.
Electrostatic Propulsion

If the acceleration is caused mainly by the Coulomb force (i.e. application of a static electric
field in the direction of the acceleration) the device is considered electrostatic.
1. Ion Thruster
2. Hall Thruster
Its key principle is that a voltage difference between two conductors sets up an
electrostatic potential difference that can accelerate ions to produce thrust.
The ions must, of course, be neutralized--often by electrons emitted from a hot filament.
The three main stages of an ion-thruster design are ion production, acceleration, and

Ion Thruster

Ion thrusters employ a variety of plasma generation techniques to ionize a

fraction of the propellant. These thrusters then utilize biased grids to
electrostatically extract ions from the plasma and accelerate them to high
velocity at voltages up to and exceeding 10 kV. Ion thrusters feature the
highest efficiency (from 60% to >80%) and very high specific impulse (from
Hall Thruster

This type of electrostatic thruster utilizes a cross-field discharge described by the

Hall effect to generate the plasma. An electric field established perpendicular to
an applied magnetic field electrostatically accelerates ions to high exhaust
velocities, while the transverse magnetic field inhibits electron motion that would
tend to short out the electric field. Hall thruster efficiency and specific impulse is
somewhat less than that achievable in ion thrusters, but the thrust at a given
power is higher and the device is much simpler and requires fewer power
supplies to operate.

Electromagnetic Propulsion

If ions are accelerated either by the Lorentz force or by the effect of

electromagnetic fields where the electric
field is not in the direction of the acceleration, the device is considered
1. Magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster
2. Pulsed Plasma Thruster
Such systems can produce exhaust speeds considerably higher than those of the
electrothermal devices, and thrust densities much larger than those of the
electrostatic thrusters.
In this, some electrically conducting fluid, usually a highly ionized gas, is subjected
to an electric field E and a magnetic field B, perpendicular to each other and to the
fluid velocity u. The current density j driven by the electric field interacts with B to
provide a streamwise body force f = j x B that accelerates the fluid along the
Magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster

Electromagnetic devices pass a large current through a small amount of gas to ionize
Once ionized, plasma is accelerated by electromagnetic body force called Lorentz
force which is created by interaction of a current (j) with magnetic field (B):F=j x B

Current provided between energized positive and negative electrodes, while

magnetic field is either induced by (created from) current itself, applied externally via
an electromagnet or both
Strength of Lorentz force for an MPD thruster with a self-induced magnetic field is
roughly proportional to ratio J2 / mdot, where J is total thruster current
While gas-phase propellants like hydrogen and lithium (after vaporization) can be
used, solid propellants can also be used in pulsed electromagnetic accelerators called
pulsed plasma thrusters (PPTs).
Magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster

Pulsed MPD Thruster Operating on Argon

Propellant at Princeton University
Pulsed Plasma Thruster

PPT consists of a coiled spring that feeds Teflon propellant bar, an igniter plug to
initiate a small-trigger electrical discharge, a capacitor, and electrodes through
which current flows
Plasma is created by ablating Teflon from discharge of capacitor across
Plasma is then accelerated to generate thrust by Lorenz force that is established
by current and its induced magnetic field
PPT flown on both American and Soviet/Russian spacecraft since the 1960s
PPT was used to maintain fine pitch attitude control for NASA New Millennium
Program's Earth Observing-1 mission launched in 2000

Pulsed Plasma Thruster

A flight-ready Teflon ablative pulsed plasma thruster

(APPT) module using two thrusters, positioned on the
ends of the thrust axis.
GSAT4 in anechoic chamber during

GSAT-9is a multi band communication and observation satellite planned to be

launched byISROin 2017 by aGSLVrocket. The satellite will carryGAGAN
navigation payload that will provide GPS services to the security forces and air
traffic control organizations. GAGAN is a regional GPS navigational system
developed by India. The satellite will have a mission life of 12 years
Future Scope

More and more companies are beginning to use satellites with electric propulsion to extend the
operational life of satellites and reduce launch and operation costs. This produces savings that can
be passed along to consumers. NASA's primary application of ion propulsion will be for main
propulsion on long missions that are difficult or impossible to perform using other types of
The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) spacecraft will use an array of high-power ion thrusters as main
propulsion. JIMO will perform an extensive exploration of Jupiter's icy moons Callisto, Ganymede,
and Europa. The spacecraft will investigate each moons composition, history, and potential for
sustaining life. Research in ion propulsion continues to push the envelope of propulsion technology.
Advancements are being made that allow the thrusters to operate at higher power levels, higher
speeds, and for longer durations. PPU and PMS technologies are being developed that will allow
NASA to build lighter and more compact systems while increasing reliability. As new power sources
become available, higher power thrusters will be developed that provide greater speed and more
thrust. Supporting technologies such as carbon-based ion optics and ECR discharges may greatly
increase ion thruster operational life, enabling longer duration missions or high-power IPS operation.
These technologies will allow humankind to explore the farthest reaches of our solar system.

[1] Martnez-SnchezM and PollardJE 1998, Spacecraft electric propulsionan

overview J. Propul. Power 14 68899
[2]Marco Sabbadini, Electric spacecraft propulsion-ESA. Retrieved 17 February
[3] ChoueiriEY 2004 A critical history of electric propulsion- the first 50 years
(190656) J. Propul. Power 20 193203
[4] BrophyJR and PolkJE 1997, Performance of 130 kW MPD thruster with an
external magnetic field and Li as a propellant Proc. of the 25th Int. Electric
Propulsion Conf. (Cleveland, OH) IEPC Paper 1997117
[5] GoebelDM and KatzI 2008, Fundamentals of Electric Propulsion (Hoboken,
NJ: Wiley)

EP offers much more substantial advantages over chemical systems, which extend
in several important cases to enabling missions that simply could not be
performed by means of any other reasonably projected propulsion technology.
These include heavy cargo and/or piloted missions to Mars and the outer planets
and many unpiloted probes beyond the solar system and out of the ecliptic plane.
The primary advantage of EP systems is the propellant mass economy, especially
for missions with a large velocity increment. Electric thrusters also offer secondary
benefits like precision and variability of the thrust, restart capabilities and long
total operational time. Their major disadvantages are the need for complicated
external power sources and the low thrust density levels.
This last characteristic strongly limits near-planet applications, complicates and
elongates orbit transfers, and makes launch and ascent/descent manoeuvres
unfeasible. EP is in fact fully exploited in the domain of interplanetary trips. It even
enables missions that simply could not be performed with chemical propulsion