This project proposes to develop a new electric propulsion module technology. This technology is based on the vacuum arc physics. This concept presents the advantage to store propellant as a solid metal. This storage solution allows to largely reduce the complexity of propulsion module and operations (on-ground and in-orbit) constraints.
The removal of in-orbit constraints (small impulse bit, no preheating, large total impulse) will pave the way to new propulsion module applications, in addition to the classical ones, and consequently to new satellite missions such as in-flight formation, electric propulsion pointing, continuous accurate attitude control.
The consortium aims at achieving the validation (qualification level) and commercialisation of this propulsion module technology at the end of the project. The team consists in experts from space propulsion, space hardware development and vacuum arc physics. During this project, it is planned to develop and validate building blocks for a family of products which will have increasing performances in thrust, total impulse and specific impulse.
After analysing requirements and potential impacts, the first part of the project will be dedicated to the development and qualification of building blocks: Arc Discharge Chamber (ADC), Plasma Generator Unit (PGU), Power Propulsion Supply and Control Unit (PPSCU).
A second part of the project will focus on the PJP0-30 with a full development through an Electrical Model and a Qualification Model. This development will largely rely on technology building blocks.
The project includes a validation flight and a series of tests of the qualification model. Thanks to all the activities performed along the project, the Plasma Jet Pack will be ready to start its commercialisation phase at the beginning of 2023.
• Plasma Jet Pack 0-150W
After requirements and potential impact analysis, the first part of the project will be dedicated to building blocks development and qualification : Arc Discharge Chamber (ADC), Plasma Generator Unit (PGU), Power Propulsion Supply and Control Unit (PPSCU).
A second part of the project will be focus on the PJP0-30 with a full development through an Electrical Model and a Qualification Model. This development will largely rely on technology building blocks.
The qualification model will be tested in order to be ready to start the commercialisation phase at the beginning of 2023. Moreover a validation flight is planned during this project at the mid of 2021
The ©Plasma Jet Pack is a pulsed electrical thruster that uses solid metallic propellant. The main function of this product is to ensure the orbit manoeuvres of nanosatellites by generating a thrust. The PJP provides the flexibility to make the following missions:
The Plasma Jet Pack is designed to improve the agility and flexibility of nano- and micro-satellite platforms, by offering safe and plug&play integration, compact volume, environment-friendly propellant and modular thrust without any change in efficiency.
The first technical project meeting was held on 16 January 2020 and was chaired by COMAT’s propulsion team in Toulouse, France.
COMAT presented the current state of performance achieved over the past 5 years to all technical partners, i.
e. CNRS (including ICARE and LAPLACE laboratories), PlasmaSolve and the Universität des Bundeswehr of Munich (UBM). The main remaining challenges in order to commercialize the first product are the following ones:
The technical work was planned with all partners and it was decided that the next six months will be dedicated to a bibliographic sharing on the physics of vacuum arc and magnetic nozzle effect. The second part of the project will be dedicated to experimental characterization and numerical simulations.
During the first period, COMAT has committed to produce 3 “experimental thrusters” for the ICARE, LAPLACE and UBM laboratories. These thrusters were designed collaboratively, taking into account the requirements of all partners relative to their plasma tools and probes. These experimental thrusters will enable to explore the physics of the vacuum arc and the effect of a magnetic field applied to the discharge.
The main objectives are to fully characterize the plasma parameters (ion charge, ionisation level, electron temperature, ion velocity, etc.) and understand the influence of magnetic field on the plasma plume and performances (thrust, specific impulse, focalization). These results will feed the PlasmaSolve company in charge of the numerical simulation of the plasma plume expansion.
At the end of the project, all these technical data can be used as a basis for a predictive model enabling COMAT to optimize the design of the first PJP product.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870444.
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