Design of a FEEP Thruster for Micro-/Nano-Satellites

University essay from Luleå tekniska universitet/Institutionen för system- och rymdteknik

Abstract: CubeSat development has seen a rise since the first launch in 2003 due to faster design process and low launch costs. It has played a vital role in providing access to space to small start-ups and academic organizations with low budgets. It has also enabled the testing of different upcoming technologies in space and has helped in providing hands-on experience to students taking part in design of such platforms. University of Pisa, in collaboration with SITAEL, has also taken an initiative to design and develop a CubeSat to test the FEEP thruster, design of which is presented in the thesis. A FEEP system was designed to fit within 1U dimensions and with a dry mass of approximately 820 grams. The system is based on slit emitter which provides an advantage over already available technologies in the market which uses needle emitters. Slit emitter scan achieve multiple Taylor cones without the need of clustering as used in needle emitters and also have a higher Thrust to Power Ratio. A propellant comparison was done considering all the properties required for an ideal propellant for a FEEP system. This comparison led to the selection of indium as working propellant which has an atomic mass of 114.8 u and a melting point of 156.6 °C. The FEEP system was designed keeping in mind easy assembling and modularity of thruster for ease in changing parts. The design consists of three different modules that are assembled separately and then joined together to complete the assembling of the system. The propellant tank, which also houses the emitter, has an internal volume of 32.75 cm3 and can hold approximately 240 grams of indium, which has a density of 7.31 g/cm3. During mission analysis, a 600km altitude orbit was proposed by analyzing the amount of propellant required for drag compensation and de-orbit maneuver at different altitudes with worst case values for ballistic coefficient and Thrust to Weight Ratio. At this altitude, the propellant requirement is 254.4 grams, 14.4 grams more than that of what can fit in the propellant tank of the designed thruster. However, both design of the system and mission analysis are ongoing processes and changes would be made in the future to either one or both to meet the requirements.

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