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Plasma Jet Pack Plasma Jet Pack

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

  • Orbit rising
  • Station keeping
  • Orbital transfer
  • De-orbiting & re-entry
  • In-flight formation
  • Docking
  • In-flight inspection.
On demand, PJP ejects high speed neutral metallic plasma in space, and consequently, transfers momentum to the satellite. Depending on the thrust level needed, the pulse frequency can vary from 0 to f_max.

The vacuum arc thruster (VAT) physics allows eroding solid metal propellant thanks to an electrical discharge in vacuum between two electrodes: the cathode (solid propellant) and the anode (passive electrode). The PJP is classified in the pulsed electromagnetic thruster’s category. The PJP uses capacitive storage: capacitors banks are connected to the terminals of the electrodes and are waiting for the High Voltage Trigger System (HVTS) to begin the main discharge. Because the vacuum is an electrical insulator, the role of the HVTS is to provide matter in the inter-electrodes region in order to ignite the arc in vacuum at lower voltage between electrodes. Therefore, the frequency of the plasma pulses is the frequency of the HVTS.

Finally, by triggering a discharge between two electrodes, the vacuum arc physics enables sublimation, ionization and acceleration of neutral plasma from solid metallic propellant. The PJP does not have the disadvantages of other gas-fed technologies (storage tank, valves, flow control valves, piping, grid erosion, neutralizer, etc.) but has the main advantage to get solid propellant with high specific impulse. This technology offers high total impulse in a very small volume without any pre-heating process or safety integration constraints.

The PJP is at TRL 4 and the goal of the H2020 project is to upgrade it to TRL 7.

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:

  • Increase the thrust-to-power ratio
  • Perform life duration  characterisation
  • Improve the robustness of the High Voltage Triggering System – HVTS.

 

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.

partners / contact

COMAT

[ COMAT ]

France

Luc HERRERO

Luc HERRERO

OHB SWEDEN AB

[ OHB SWEDEN AB ]

Sweden

Alain DEMAIRE

Alain DEMAIRE

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS

[ CNRS ]

France

Stéphane MAZOUFFRE

Stéphane MAZOUFFRE

UNIVERSITAET DER BUNDESWEHR MUENCHEN

[ MUNICH UNI ]

Germany

Jochen SCHEIN

Jochen SCHEIN

THALES ALENIA SPACE FRANCE SAS

[ TASF ]

France

Philippe LAMOTTE

Philippe LAMOTTE

PLASMASOLVE SRO

[ PlasmaSolve ]

Czechia

Adam OBRUSNIK

Adam OBRUSNIK

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870444.
Disclaimer: This website reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. 

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graph - chart

Start 01/01/2020
30% 31/10/2020
End 31/12/2022
Budget allocation . M€ Budget allocation
Effort 182 p*m Effort
Effort 5 persons Full time equivalent

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September 2020 - Work in progress

2020-10-01

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