The HET is an efficient form of electric propulsion that is typically used in space for orbit-raising and orbit maintenance. The size, low alpha (kg/kW), and simplicity of Hall thrusters make them ideal for many NASA applications including deep space exploration. The proposed device will be well sized for spacecraft < 180 kg. Integration with nano-spacecraft (<20 kg) is also feasible. Continuous thrust functions for small, power-limited spacecraft would include orbit insertion and maintenance, in-space maneuvering, orbit raising, and de-orbiting. In pulsed mode, the thruster could also provide high precision impulse bits for station-keeping and attitude control, precision positioning, and constellation maintenance of small and micro-satellites. The first NASA application of this technology could be a small satellite demonstration mission. Such a system could use xenon or iodine propellant. Subsequent science missions that could utilize thruster technology include NASA Flagship, Frontier, Discovery class missions to Asteroids, comets, dwarf planets, outer planets. Depending on the destination and capabilities of the spacecraft, thruster could function either by itself or in conjunction with a larger Hall thruster. The ability to thrust efficiently at multiple power levels is critical for an interplanetary system. Other applications could include an upper stage for NASA's Nano/Micro Satellite Launch Vehicle (NMSLV), described under topic E1.02.
Hall thrusters are attractive for commercial and military spacecraft due to their high performance, small size, low mass, and relatively low cost. Continuous thrust functions for small, power-limited spacecraft in LEO would include orbit insertion and maintenance, in-space maneuvering, orbit raising, and de-orbiting. The thruster is appropriate for spacecraft as small as 5-10 U in size. Applications for geosynchronous spacecraft would include station-keeping and repositioning. In pulsed mode, the thruster could provide high precision impulse bits for station-keeping and attitude control, precision positioning, and constellation maintenance of small and micro-satellites. A system fueled by dense, low maintenance iodine could provide a literal off the shelf option for Air Force spacecraft, greatly enhancing operational readiness.