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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Next-Generation Ion Thruster Design Tool to Support Future Space Missions

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Next-Generation Ion Thruster Design Tool to Support Future Space Missions
Computational tools that accurately predict the performance of electric propulsion devices are highly desirable by NASA and the broader electric propulsion community. Large investments in running the long duration test programs (> 20 kHrs) at NASA GRC can be reduced with computer models and allow more focus on exploring the NEXT ion thruster design for future space missions. The current state of electric propulsion modeling relies heavily on empirical data frequently taken directly from the device of interest and relies on numerous computational "knobs". A self-consistent particle model that minimizes the number of free parameters used in thruster modeling, and allows accurate electric thruster simulations is desired. We propose a kinetic model that simulates the dynamic electric fields inside the NEXT ion thruster discharge chamber plasma. This will be the first time that this has been done. In addition kinetic erosion models will be used for modeling the ionimpingement effects on thruster components. We envision one seamless model of the plasma from emission within the hollow cathode to ejection to outer space in the exhaust plume. This model will help NASA GRC to predict the lifetime operation of the high power ion propulsion options for earth-orbital applications. More »

Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

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This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.