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Consortium for Hall Effect Orbital Propulsion System

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CHEOPS (Consortium for Hall Effect Orbital Propulsion System)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2021-04-30

To reach its operational orbit and to maintain its position in space, a satellite has to maneuver using its own thrusters. The most common propulsion method uses chemical reactions to produce a flow of fast-moving hot gas, thereby providing a strong thrust sufficient to lift huge rockets off the ground. Whilst it is capable of producing an enormous thrust, it is less adapted to satellite propulsion as it does not take advantage of sunlight, the only renewable energy available in space. Furthermore, the expensive chemical propellants and storage structure to be carried is done so at the detrimental of the mass of the satellite.

Electric propulsion is a technology aimed at achieving thrust with high exhaust velocities, which results in a reduction in the amount of propellant required for a given application compared to other conventional propulsion methods. Reduced propellant mass can significantly decrease the launch mass of a spacecraft or satellite, leading to lower costs from the use of smaller launch vehicles to deliver a desired mass into a given orbit (LEO, MEO or GEO) or to a deep-space target. While various electric propulsion concepts were investigated during the last decades, only a few show performances and maturity levels eligible for such applications; among these concepts, Hall Effect propulsion technology is at the forefront when high thrust density is required.

The Consortium for Hall Effect Orbital Propulsion System (CHEOPS) is developing three different Hall Effect Thruster electric propulsion systems: a dual mode EPS for GEO applications, a low power for LEO applications and a >20 kW high thrust EPS for exploration applications. Each of these are developed according to market needs and drivers applying incremental technology changes to existing EPS products.

Common transverse activities include value creation strategy, advanced numerical design tools, alternative propellants and lifetime estimation.

The 10 objectives and the commitments taken at the beginning of the project have been successfully reached, with, in particular, a PDR maturity achieved for the three propulsive systems.
CHEOPS project started in November 1st 2016.
During the first period the project team has analyzed the global satellite market segments trends, forecast and main characteristics to elaborate the systems specification. The main requirements for each of the three propulsion systems were collected from the large system integrators’s through the organization of workshops, and the system and sub-system requirements were released. The value creation strategy, cornerstone of the competitiveness targeted by the project was developped. The value drivers have been defined from interviews, trainings and workshops, and led for the three power-classes to analyses of alternative concepts with improved performance and or new functionality with regards to existing concepts, to meet the target costs.

In parallel, common transverse activities on advanced numerical design tools for electric propulsion enabled to improve the understanding of the behavior and interactions with the satellite platform and to predict performance of a given design. These studies included alternative propellants and the ability to estimate the system lifetime. Also, significant progress were made in HET performance measurement and in the development of advanced non-intrusive tests for measuring thruster erosion.

Co-engineering sessions were launched for the three systems on the basis of all those feedbacks, to issue the preliminary architecture, and work on technical solutions through trade-offs. In 2021, the 3 systems have successfully passed their PDR, which validated their respective maturity level. The work plans to achieve the maturity levels in the upcoming development phase have also been agreed. The target levels and associated dates are consistent with the achievement by 2023/2024 : a) TRL7-8 for the dual mode and low power systems HET EPS b) TRL6 for the high power HET EPS.
These objectives are secured through programs funded by the European Union (H2020 framework): CHEOPS Low and Medium Power projects, and the ASPIRE project, all three of which aim to further develop these future products to permit their application to a wide variety of satellite platforms, payloads and missions.

The dissemination activities led to the creation and publication of the public website of the project: (https://www.cheops-h2020.eu/) as well as the development of the project logo. Communication and promotional materials were produced, with a project newsletter, brochure and roll-up, USB keys, social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube) and the implementation of conferences/workshops. About 40 materials (papers, presentations, workshop organization) were produced throughout the project.
CHEOPS phase 1 and then phase 2 will permit in 2023 to provide the market with EPS’s suitable to fulfil the opening market worldwide. CHEOPS works in parallel on three HET PS systems which address a variety of medium and long term needs as defined by the three Satellite prime contractors (TAS F, OHB & ADS) participating in the project. The combination of different and complementary partner profiles in the project enhances the European competitiveness to benefit from the CHEOPS activities through:
- the ability of the satellite primer contractors (ADS, OHB and TAS F) to share their immediate and future requirements so that the CHEOPS product developments fully answer these.
- the development of design to cost products by system suppliers which are aligned to their existing internal R&T roadmaps and have the p-ssibility to be adjusted to future defined needs as dictated by current market needs and future market trends. Cost reductions sub-system level will drive the overall HET EP system recurring costs down thus having a direct competitive impact for the satellite manufacturer as will the ability to offer a standard multi-platform product.
- the strengthening of collaboration between competing organisations and the cross—fertilisation of innovative ideas and promotion of standards.

The project will bring competitive advantages along the complete Eurpoean Industry supply chain to address market application :
For GEO applications, the availability of more powerful HET will reduce the EOR durations, with direct benefits for the end-customers. The increase of flexibility, the availability of more competitive PPU, the use of alternative and cheaper propellants will improve the overall EPS competitiveness, giving a significant advantage with respect to the non-European competition. For LEO/MEO, the availability of compact and cheaper EPS solutions will allow to generalize the use of Electric Propulsion, with direct impacts on the launch costs, or on the payload capacities, providing key differentiators with respect to the traditional chemical monopropellant satellites. For transportation / exploration / interplanetary, the development of high power EPS (> 20 kW) will enable missions that are currently not feasible with chemical propulsions.

The project will also bring improvement on the simulation and modelling side, to help coping with new operational conditions (e.g. very low Earth orbits), use of alternative propellants, small platforms, thruster clustering and other innovative options.
Hall Effect Thruster PPS-FLEX firing in vacuum chamber. Credit: CNRS/LAPLACE and CNRS/ICARE