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Electric sail propulsion technology

Objective

The Electric Solar Wind Sail (E-sail) is a recent invention of ultra-efficient propellantless in-space propulsion technology. It uses the solar wind charged ions as natural source for producing spacecraft thrust. The E-sail is composed of a set of long, thin, conducting and positively charged tethers which are centrifugally stretched from the main spacecraft and kept electrically charged by an onboard electron gun powered by solar panels.

The E-sail concept is an enabling technology for reducing significantly the time, cost and mass required for spacecraft to reach their destinations. It has been estimated that it has the potential to improve the state of the art of propulsion systems by 2 to 3 orders of magnitude if using the lifetime integrated total impulse versus propulsion system mass as the figure of merit. Furthermore, the E-sail propulsion technology is truly a green propellantless method reducing significantly the mission launch masses and the amount of chemical propellant burnt in the atmosphere. As an electromechanical device it does not need any poisonous, explosive or radioactive substances or dangerous construction procedures.

In the proposed project, we develop the key E-sail technologies (tethers, tether reels, spinup and guidance/control method based on gas and FEEP thrusters) to prototype level. The goal is that after the project, the decision to build and fly the first E-sail demonstration mission in the solar wind can be made. As a secondary technological goal, the project will raise the FEEP and gas thruster readiness level for general-purpose satellite attitude control purposes.

Field of science

  • /engineering and technology/environmental engineering/energy and fuels/fossil energy/gas
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/astronomy/space exploration

Call for proposal

FP7-SPACE-2010-1
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

CP - Collaborative project (generic)

Coordinator

ILMATIETEEN LAITOS
Address
Erik Palmenin Aukio 1
00560 Helsinki
Finland
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 374 148,40
Administrative Contact
Pekka Janhunen (Dr.)

Participants (8)

HELSINGIN YLIOPISTO
Finland
EU contribution
€ 318 427,20
Address
Yliopistonkatu 3
00014 Helsingin Yliopisto
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Satu Väisänen (Ms.)
JYVASKYLAN YLIOPISTO
Finland
EU contribution
€ 69 960
Address
Seminaarinkatu 15
40100 Jyvaskyla
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Jukka Maalampi (Prof.)
DEUTSCHES ZENTRUM FUER LUFT - UND RAUMFAHRT EV
Germany
EU contribution
€ 249 915
Address
Linder Hoehe
51147 Koeln
Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Karim Ayadi (Mr.)
UPPSALA UNIVERSITET
Sweden
EU contribution
€ 210 600
Address
Von Kraemers Alle 4
751 05 Uppsala
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Greger Thornell (Prof.)
GOMSPACE SWEDEN AB
Sweden
EU contribution
€ 173 016
Address
Ulls Vag 29 A
756 51 Uppsala
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Administrative Contact
Pelle Rangsten (Dr.)
TARTU OBSERVATORY - ESTONIAN MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
Estonia
EU contribution
€ 141 926,40
Address
Toravere
61602 Toravere
Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Mart Noorma (Dr.)
UNIVERSITA DI PISA
Italy
EU contribution
€ 60 000
Address
Lungarno Pacinotti 43/44
56126 Pisa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Giovanni Mengali (Prof.)
ALTA SPA
Italy
EU contribution
€ 149 400
Address
Via Allessandro Gherardesca 5
56121 Pisa
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Administrative Contact
Francesca Valtriani (Ms.)