Electric Propulsion



Electric propulsion systems, characterized by their high specific impulse, are widely used in numerous space missions. These include orbit correction mechanisms for satellites in various altitudes and the provision of constant acceleration for deep space exploration spacecraft. However, due to its operational characteristics, the electric propulsion system emits plasma plumes that tend to expand at a wide angle. This phenomenon is problematic if such an expansion pollutes not only itself but also its parent spacecraft, decreasing the mission capability and shortening the expected lifespan of the spacecraft. 

Therefore, modeling the plasma plume expansion is of paramount importance in integrating electric propulsion into a spacecraft. A numerical simulation of the plasma plume can predict the plume's interaction with the spacecraft so that an appropriate countermeasure can be introduced to protect the spacecraft.


Atmosphere-Breathing Electric Propulsion (ABEP)

A new satellite orbit near Earth, namely very-low-earth-orbit (VLEO), can be a better alternative to other existing orbits with higher altitudes. Placing satellites in such orbit brings many benefits, such as reduced cost of launch and improved performance of satellite operation. However, one of the most fundamental problems of VLEO is the rarefied existence of atmospheric molecules that causes drag on the satellite. Without a method of drag compensation, this may result in premature orbital decay of the satellite. 

A game-changing technology that can circumvent this problem is Atmosphere-Breathing Electric Propulsion (ABEP). The system uses a thin atmosphere as the propellant rather than the traditional propellant of electric propulsion systems such as Xenon. Therefore, one of the challenges of ABEP is designing an efficient inlet for the collection and compression of rarefied atmosphere. As ABEP does not require Xenon during its operation, realizing this technology will significantly increase the spacecraft's lifespan and cargo capacity.


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