Skip to main content

Intake Design, and Optimization for an Atmosphere-Breathing Electric Propulsion System

Masters Thesis Presentation

Time: Fri 2020-11-06 15.15

Lecturer: Jesus Espinosa Orozco


Over the last two decades, Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) has gained researchers attention as it provides a significant amount of benefits in the field of earth observation and telecommunications. VLEO provides increased payload performance, improved geospatial accuracy, lower launch mass, simplified end of life disposal, and they reduce space-debris collision risk. However, the utilization of orbits with such low altitudes presents its own set of challenges, denser atmosphere will significantly increase aerodynamic drag, decaying the orbit in a short period of time. Besides increased drag VLEO environment will produce high levels of spacecraft (SC) charging and the presence of atomic oxygen will generate a constant erosion on the surfaces of the SC. An Atmosphere-Breathing Electric Propulsion (ABEP) ingests the residual atmosphere through an intake and uses it as propellant for an electric thruster. Theoretically applicable to any planet with an atmosphere, the system might allow drag compensation for an unlimited time without carrying propellant. In this thesis, different approaches for an intake are introduced, while the modeling, and numerical testing by Direct Simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) is also presented. The intake is optimized for the RF Helicon-based Plasma Thruster (IPT) developed at IRS and a new concept design takes advantage of new materials properties, for specular surface interactions. Simulation results over different altitudes and conditions used for the verification of the design have been performed achieving a maximum collection efficiency of 94%.

Page responsible:Web editors at EECS
Belongs to: Space and Plasma Physics
Last changed: Nov 02, 2020