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A Proposal to Develop and Test a Fibre-Optic Coupled Solar Thermal Propulsion System for Microsatellites

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Final rept. 1 Aug 2004-10 May 2006

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This report results from a contract tasking University of Surrey. Solar Thermal Propulsion STP previously envisioned for large spacecraft and capable of high levels of propulsive performance 1000s Isp is currently being adapted for use on microsatellites at the University of Surrey. In utilising the high propulsive capability offered by STP, significant mass savings are possible. Conventional STP system concepts encounter difficulties in conforming to the low mass and volume requirements of a micro-satellite platform. The enabling technology for this concept is the advent of low attenuation high numerical aperture fibre optics. Applying fibre optics to STP allows the solar concentrator mirror to be mechanically decoupled from the solar heat exchanger as well as granting power input from multiple solar concentrators into a single heat exchanger. This ability allows STP systems with static concentrators to perform apogee raising and circularisation manoeuvres via a direct gain scheme, rather than being restricted to thrusting along the Sun vector. Thus the application of fibre optics accommodates a higher level of system flexibility and simplicity in comparison to conventional STP direct gain concepts for micro-satellites. This report presents a detailed analysis and design of a STP technology demonstration system incorporating fibre optics. Results are presented for solar concentrator surface quality measurements, fibre optic transmission testing and on the initial performance of a prototype pointing mechanism that utilizes a novel approach for Sun tracking and feedback.

Subject Categories:

  • Fiber Optics and Integrated Optics
  • Rocket Engines

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