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CHEOPS Very High-Power Building Blocks

Project description

Improved Hall-effect thrusters for deeper exploration of space

Used for propelling Earth-orbiting satellites and deep-space robotic vehicles, Hall-effect thrusters generate thrust by creating and accelerating ionised gas via an electric field. Very high power Hall-effect thrusters of 20 kW or above are at the forefront of several initiatives. Manufacturing larger electric propulsion systems will lead to the design of larger spacecraft travelling longer distances. However, qualifying very high power Hall-effect thrusters is challenging. The EU-funded CHEOPS-VHP-BB project will complement ongoing projects focused on thruster development. Researchers will engage in many activities, including the assessment of the overall architecture against various mission use cases and the development of a robust, cost-effective approach to qualification based on probabilistic failure analysis.


For the future of space exploration and space logistics, and to reduce costs for orbit transportation of future payloads, very high-power Hall Effect thrusters of 20 kW or above are at the forefront of several initiatives today. Be it as single or clustered units, the combined thrust of these electric propulsion systems (EPS) paves the way to allowing larger spacecraft and more ambitious missions to be envisaged. However, given that these missions would require significant burn time of the EPS, several important issues must be addressed that go beyond the simple ability of manufacturing larger EPS components. Specifically, qualifying such electric thrusters for lifetime is currently a showstopper.
In the race to the Moon and Mars, as well as other lucrative commercial missions within earth’s orbit beyond 2030, the European Space industry must catch up with the US. Studies within Europe have already been initiated for the incremental development of 20-kW class Hall thrusters such as the FP7 HiPER project which produced the PPS®20k ML thruster up to TRL4, FP7 CHEOPS project which permitted SITAEL to develop their 20kW HET, ESA projects allowing UNIPI to develop their nested multi-channel TANDEM thruster or the ongoing H2020 ASPIRE project led by SITAEL.
Nevertheless, given the challenges and the opportunities that VHP present, research such as proposed in CHEOPS-VHP-BB must be anticipated now ahead of its effective deployment in 2030-40. Project activities will complement ongoing thruster-focused development activities with research and development on key building blocks essential for the future use of VHP Hall thruster systems: overall system architecture against various mission use cases, robust and cost-effective approach to qualification using Probabilistic Failure Analysis, manufacturability of key components subject to wear, notably the discharge chamber and cathode and the ability to envisage alternative propellants and power sources for future missions.



Net EU contribution
€ 66 752,00
2 boulevard du general martial valin
75015 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Other funding
€ 28 608,00

Participants (7)