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High Efficiency Multistage Plasma Thruster – Next Generation

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - HEMPT-NG (High Efficiency Multistage Plasma Thruster – Next Generation)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-07-31

The objective of the HEMPT-NG consortium is to develop, simulate, build and test the High Efficiency Multistage Plasma Thruster – Next Generation (HEMPT-NG) to operate a GEO-(Telecom- und Navigation) and LEO-Thruster for used for station keeping, orbit raising and orbit manoeuvring of satellites.
And more globally: the HEMPT-NG project will contribute to increase the competitiveness of space electrical propulsion systems developed in Europe by developing an integrated solution based on the HEMPT (Highly Efficient Multistage Plasma Thruster) technology for both the LEO and Telecom/Navigation satellites.

This project increased the capacity to compete within a worldwide market in term of cost and performances. The availability of such competitive electrical propulsion system is a key to the success of the European space sector and the emerging space applications. HEMPT-NG will also reduce dependency to foreign supplier to ensure an independent access to space in Europe.

So the interest of the whole consortium (Aerospazio Tecnologie SARL, Airbus Defence & Space GmbH, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University, OHB System AG, Thales Alenia Space Belgium, Thales Alenia Space France, Thales Alenia Space Germany, Thales Alenia Space UK and Thales Germany) was to increase the competitiveness of space electrical propulsion systems developed in Europe by developing an integrated solution based on the HEMPT technology for both the LEO and GEO satellites.
The system design for the both application lines LEO and GEO has been performed. Respective requirement definition has reached maturity, Preliminary Design reviews performed and creation of the hardware deliverables was started and for the LEO application completed.

For the LEO segment a high fidelity bread board 700W Thruster module has designed and tested for relevant environment. This module evens out the performance difference to thrusters of the same power class on the market. The module is designed for high volume production and is adequate in particular for mega constellations. It maintains the inherent advantages of the HEMPT-technology such as flexibility, simplicity and high lifetime. The concept can be transferred to larger scaled thrusters of higher power in the GEO application inline within this program.

A flow control system comprised by a high and a low pressure part has been designed and first models have been built and tested. The units are reduced in size, Cost, mass in comparison with traditional components and provide better control and manufacturability.

A LEO-PPU (Power Processing Unit) optimized for cost has been designed and built. Two coupling tests on EP-System Level where performed confirming the system definition and validating the whole design.
The LEO-PPU will allow to use the 700W thruster module among others in the different LEO applications together with the new innovative fluidic control elements.

The Design of the GEO-PPU has arrived on the detailed design level and first hardware elements are in manufacturing.
The HEMPT technology has significant advantages compared to the other electrical propulsion technologies that are currently available (Hall effect thrusters and Grid ion thrusters). The lower mass and the ability to choose between high thrust and low propellant consumption operations will allow lighter or more powerful satellites. The absence of erosion will significantly improve the life duration of the thrusters. And finally the replacement of the xenon by the krypton that is more common in the atmosphere will lower the economic and ecological cost for satellite propellant.

The compatibility with krypton has been demonstrated in the recent coupling tests.

Presentation of the results in international conferences guaranteed critical feedback and impact of the work to the scientific community. Contact with students in the workgroup at the University offered a trigger for further academic qualification in this high-technology field.
EV0 - HEMPT-NG LEO-Thruster
Flow Control Unit for HEMPT-NG
µFCU heritage design in comparison to a usb stick, curtesy of AST GmbH
EPR and Fills Drain Valves