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Plasma Jet Pack

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PJP (Plasma Jet Pack)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-12-31

This project proposes to develop a new electric propulsion module technology. This technology is based on the vacuum arc physics. This concept presents the advantage to store propellant as a solid metal. This storage solution allows to largely reduce the complexity of propulsion module and operations (on-ground and in-orbit) constraints. The removal of in-orbit constraints (small impulse bit, no preheating, large total impulse) will pave the way to new propulsion module applications, in addition to the classical ones, and consequently to new satellite missions such as in-flight formation, electric propulsion pointing, continuous accurate attitude control.

The consortium aims at achieving the validation (qualification level) and commercialisation of this propulsion module technology at the end of the project. The team consists in experts from space propulsion, space hardware development and vacuum arc physics. During this project, it is planned to develop and validate building blocks for a family of products which will have increasing performances in thrust, total impulse and specific impulse.

After analysing requirements and potential impacts, the first part of the project will be dedicated to the development and qualification of building blocks: Arc Discharge Chamber (ADC), Plasma Generator Unit (PGU), Power Propulsion Supply and Control Unit (PPSCU).
A second part of the project will focus on the PJP0-30 with a full development through an Electrical Model and a Qualification Model. This development will largely rely on technology building blocks.

The project includes a validation flight and a series of tests of the qualification model. Thanks to all the activities performed along the project, the Plasma Jet Pack will be ready to start its commercialisation phase at the beginning of 2023.
After one year of working with the consortium, we have achieved to improve the thrust (+63%) thanks to a magnetic nozzle. This magnetic nozzle focuses the jet into a cone angle of +/-20°(@90% of ions mass) and increases the speed of ions up to 20km/s.
Moreover we have increased the thrust duration with the help of a fully new cathode feed mechanism. Knowledge of the vacuum arc has been improved thanks to the different competencies of academic partners (Bundeswehr University of Munich,CNRS-ICARE,CNRS-LAPLACE) in plasma and associated characterization processes. Regarding 2021, we plan to cross-check these different data in order to feed the numerical model designed by PlasmaSolve.
By the end of the project, we will have a deeper understanding of vacuum arc physics applied to space propulsion and a representative numerical model. The Plasma Jet Pack will be fully qualified and the building blocks validated, thus allowing the development of new technology applications.