Air Force Research Laboratory High Power Electric Propulsion Technology Development
AIR FORCE RESEARCH LAB EDWARDS AFB CA PROPULSION DIRECTORATE
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Space solar power generation systems have a significant impact on Electric Propulsion EP technology development. Recent advances in solar cell, deployment, and concentrator hardware have led to significant decreases in component mass, reducing system specific power. Combined with maneuvering requirements for Air Force and DoD missions of interest, propulsive requirements emerge that provide direction for technology investments. Projections for near- to mid-term propulsion capabilities are presented indicating the need for thrusters capable of processing larger amounts of power 100 - 200 kW, operating at relatively moderate specific impulse 2000 - 5000 s and high efficiency 60, and having low mass 1 kgkW. Two technology areas are identified and discussed in the context of the above thruster constraints. Concentric channel Hall thrusters are an extension of a mature technology, offering operation over expanded power levels and lower specific mass at SOTA efficiencies. Field Reverse Configuration FRC thrusters are a specific type of Compact Toroid CT that have the potential to operate up to MW power levels, at specific masses even lower than concentric channel Hall thrusters, and on a wider range of propellants. However, FRCs are currently less mature than the Hall thruster variants. Comparisons of candidate technologies are evaluated with VASIMR, a well publicized high power EP device currently under development.
- Electric and Ion Propulsion