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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 and beneficial to NASA and the broader electric propulsion community. The current state-of-the-art in electric propulsion modeling relies heavily on empirical data and on numerous computational "knobs". In Phase I of this project, we developed the most detailed ion engine discharge chamber model that currently exists. This is a kinetic model that simulates all particles in the discharge chamber along with a physically correct simulation of the electric fields. In addition, kinetic erosion models are included for modeling the ion-impingement effects on thruster component erosion. For Phase II of this project, the goal is to make this sophisticated computer program a user friendly program that NASA and other governmental and industrial customers are able to utilize. In Phase II we will implement a number of advanced numerical routines to bring the computational time down to a commercially acceptable level. At the end of Phase II, NASA will have a highly sophisticated, user friendly ion engine discharge chamber modeling tool that will save time and expense in designing new and different size ion engines, as well as analyzing existing ion engine performance. More »

Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

Technology Transitions

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