The University of Michigan
Department of Aerospace Engineering
| Plasmadynamics & Electric Propulsion Laboratory |
PEPL Thrusters
X3 - Nested Channel Hall Thruster
This project aims to take the nested-channel concept proved by the X2 and expand it to three channels and maximum power levels on the order of 200 kW. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2013 - ongoing
CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT)
The CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster is a new design for a permanent magnet helicon generated plasma thruster. [view more thruster photos and contribute...]
Developed:2013 - ongoing
Tested at PEPL:2014 - ongoing
Developer:Prof. Ben Longmier
X2 - Nested Channel Hall Thruster
The goal of the project is to create a fourth-generation PEPL Hall thruster capable of multiple modes of operation including a high-thrust, high-power operation mode. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2009 - ongoing
6-kW Hall Thruster
This thruster is a third-generation PEPL Hall thruster. This thruster features a center-mounted cathode, second-generation magnetic lens topology, and an advanced propellant injection scheme. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2008 - ongoing
Developers:PEPL, AFRL, and NASA JPL
Helicon Hall Thruster (HHT)
This 10-kW class HHT uses a helicon ionization source coupled to a Hall acceleration stage. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2010
Developer:ElectroDynamic Applications (EDA)
M1 & M2 NanoFET
NanoFET is designed to be a scalable, self-neutralizing, high thrust-to-power propulsion system spanning a wide range of specific impulse of interest for small satellite missions. [view more thruster photos...]
Developed:2006 - 2010
Tested at PEPL:2009 - 2010
Developer:PEPL & ElectroDynamic Applications (EDA)
Experimental Coaxial Field Reversed Configuration Thruster (XOCOT)
This 40-cm outer diameter thruster is a low-voltage annular field reversed configuration plasma device operated by a 10-kJ pulsed power facility at the AFRL. [view more thruster photos...]
Developer:PEPL & the AFRL
The NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Laboratory Model (LM4)
To meet the requirements of large flagship-type missions, the NASA Glenn Research Center has developed the next generation ion propulsion system. The NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) is a 40 cm diameter ion engine, double the beam extraction area of the NSTAR ion engine. The NEXT ion engine development followed the "derating" philosophy used for the NSTAR engine. The NEXT engine consists of a stainless steel semi-conic discharge chamber with a ring-cusp magnetic field geometry. Hollow cathodes are employed for electron emission in the discharge chamber and to neutralize the ion beam. The ion optics are dished grids with the same geometries as NSTAR. The engine was designed to be throttled from 1.1-6.1 kW to adjust for varying available power resulting from solar panel degradation over the life of the mission. The NEXT ion engine has been demonstrated over a throttling range of 1.1-6.9 kW, specific impulse range of 2210-4100 s, with resulting thrust of 50-237 mN. The fourth Laboratory Model NEXT engine, referred to as LM4, was built at the NASA GRC with the intention of conducting detailed mappings of the discharge plasma via electrostatic probes and Laser-Induced Fluorescence (LIF). [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2004-2005
Developer:Built by NASA GRC and a member of PEPL
BHT-600 Cluster
This cluster of 600-W Hall thrusters was acquired by PEPL to continue thruster interaction studies. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2005 - 2009
2x P5 Cluster
This thruster configuration studied the clustering two mid-power Hall thrusters and the effect of facility backpressure on Hall thruster performance. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2003
HiPEP Multiple-cathode Discharge Chamber
NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) developed the 30-kW High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) ion thruster for NASA's nuclear-powered Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO). During 2002-2005, the primary objective of the NASA-GRC funded Multiple-Cathode Discharge Chamber (MCDC) project was to investigate the benefits of using two or more discharge cathodes to extend thruster life for JIMO. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2004-2005
Developer:NASA GRC
The NASA-173GT was jointly developed and built by PEPL and NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) in 2002-2003 to investigate the possibility of combining the efficient ionization stage of the ion thruster with the gridless acceleration stage of the Hall thruster. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2004
Developer:PEPL and NASA GRC
Lessons learned from the development and testing of the NASA 173Mv1 led to development of the NASA-173Mv2 in 2003. This second-generation PEPL Hall thruster demonstrated that a properly designed magnetic lens allows the thruster efficiency to monotonically increase with the discharge voltage. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2004
Developer:PEPL and NASA GRC
BHT-200 Cluster
This cluster of four 200 W Busek thrusters (4x BHT-200-X3) was tested at PEPL to determine the coupling effects associated with clustering. Clustering allows a spacecraft to achieve virtually unlimited scaled power and thrust levels with a given thruster. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2002
The Pratt & Whitney T-220 is a 10-kW Hall thruster. This thruster was tested at PEPL as a part of the Air Force Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology (IHPRPT) program. A variant of this thruster (T-220HT) established the U.S. Hall thruster power level record when it operated at 21 kW at PEPL. This record stood for a few months until NASA tested its NASA-457M thruster past 50 kW. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2002
Developer:Pratt & Whitney
The Pratt & Whitney T-140 is a 3-kW Hall thruster that was tested at PEPL as a part of the Air Force Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology (IHPRPT) program. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2002
Developer:Pratt & Whitney
The intermediate stage of the P5-2 was removed and the front face plasma coated to create the 173Mv1 to plasma-investigate high-efficiency, high-specific-impulse operation. The 173Mv1 (P5-2) is a second-generation Hall thrusters designed by PEPL and affiliates. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2002
Linear Gridless Ion Thruster (LGIT)
The Linear Gridless Ion Thruster (LGIT) is a 2-kW two-stage device that is designed to incorporate the efficient ionization process found in gridded ion thrusters with the high thrust density and crossed-field acceleration mechanism of Hall thrusters. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2001
The P5-2 is PEPL's first attempt at creating a two-stage Hall-type accelerator. By adding an additional intermediate electrode, this 5-kW thruster is designed to separately control the ionization and acceleration stage voltage drops. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:2009 - ongoing
In 1998 the Aerojet BPT-4000 4.5-kW Hall thruster was briefly tested at PEPL. It went on to demonstrate both great performance and lifetime for commercial satellite applications. Work at PEPL included early performance evaluation and plume characterization to help space qualify this design.
Tested at PEPL:1998
NSTAR FMT Ion Engine
Ion thrusters are electrostatic electric propulsion engines. Ions (typically Xenon or Krypton) are efficiently produced in a discharge chamber via collisions between neutral atom and energetic electrons generated by a hollow cathode in the discharge chamber. The ions are accelerated through two fine grids with roughly a 1300 V difference between them for 2.3 kW operation. The ion beam is "neutralized" by electrons emitted from a second hollow cathode external to the discharge assembly. The NASA Solar Electric Propulsion Technology Application Readiness (NSTAR) program developed the 2.3 kW ion engine for use as a primary propulsion engine for orbit transfer and intra-solar system trajectories. The NSTAR engine is the primary propulsion for the Deep Space 1 (DS-1) probe currently in route for comet and asteroid rendezvous. The functional model thruster (FMT) was the immediate predecessor to the engineering model (EMT) NSTAR thrusters which themselves led to the flight engines and remain the principal ground test engines. They differ primarily in the FMT's extensive use of 1100 grade aluminum. FMT2 was assembled and modified at NASA GRC specifically for use at PEPL. The modifications included the addition of large windows for optical access to the discharge chamber. The discharge cathode and ion optics are identical to those used in the EMT's. In December, 1998, PEPL became the first university to run an ion engine at power levels greater than 1 kW. The discharge and overall engine performance of the FMT at PEPL was nearly identical to that of the flight engine over the entire throttling range of the NSTAR thruster. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1998 - 2003
Developer:NASA GRC
The University of Michigan and the United States Air Force Research Laboratory have designed and built a 5 kW Hall thruster for research purposes designated the P5. This thruster has a discharge chamber outer diameter of 173 mm and was designed to emulate the characteristics of commercial Hall thrusters. Measurements taken in the LVTF (see AIAA-98-3503) using the thrust stand have shown that this thruster does have performance characteristics comparable to commercial models. This thruster has been utilized for various long term research projects at the University of Michigan. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1999 - ongoing
Developer:PEPL and the AFRL
In 1997, the PEPL-70 Hall thruster was built and tested at PEPL. The design is based on the Russian SPT series. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1997
As a part of the Air Force Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology (IHPRPT) program the Fakel Enterprises 4.5-kW SPT-140 was tested at PEPL. The work at PEPL included performance and PPU testing. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1997
Developer:Fakel Enterprises
D-55 Thruster with Anode Layer (TAL)
The D-55 TAL, a 1.35-kW anode layer counterpart to the SPT-100 was the second anode layer thruster ever tested at PEPL. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1997
D-100 Thruster with Anode Layer (TAL)
The D-100, a 4.5 kW thruster, was the first anode layer thruster tested at PEPL. The D-100 was tested as a part of a study to compare its performance to that of the SPT-100, and to investigate TAL operation on both krypton and xenon.
Tested at PEPL:1996
Space Systems/Loral loaned PEPL an SPT-100 Hall thruster to conduct far-field plume measurements to support flight qualification for far use on Western spacecraft. Under Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) support, PEPL developed a number plume diagnostics to study the SPT-100 including: a fast radial traverse system to obtain far- and near-field plume measurements (with RPA, Langmuir, heat flux, and neutral density probes), a molecular beam mass spectrometer (MBMS) to characterize the plume plasma charge state, and an ExB probe to quantify the plume plasma charge state. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1995 - 1999
Developer:Fakel Enterprises
1.35-kW MAI Hall thruster
In 1995 the 1.35-kW laboratory Hall thruster, developed by Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) was tested at PEPL. The goal of the experiments were to improve the efficiency of Hall thrusters operating on Krypton
Tested at PEPL:1995
Developer:Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI)
End-Hall Thruster
The 500-W end-Hall thruster, developed at NASA Lewis Research Center (now GRC) was studied at PEPL as an alternative to the closed-drift thruster (CDT) that gained popularity due Russian research showing excellent CDT performance. This thruster does not have a center pole , thus eliminating an entire surface that can be eroded away. However, efficiency was found to be lower than similar CDT devices. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1994
Developer:NASA Lewis (now Glenn) Reseach Center
PEPL MPD (Magnetoplasmadynmaic) Thruster
This applied-field pulsed MPD thruster was provided by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and is based on Prof. Gallimore's graduate work at Princeton. The thruster was tested at PEPL in a collaboration project with NASA Lewis Research Center (now GRC). The goal of the project was to study the suitability of the MPD thruster for 10-kW class solar electric orbit transfer vehicle (SEOTV) missions. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1993
1-kW Arcjet
The first electric propulsion device tested at PEPL was a 1 kW class arcjet from NASA Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center). The arcjet operated on both hydrogen and simulated hydrazine decomposition products. The specific impulse peaked at ~800 s (hydrogen) at an efficiency of 30%. [view more thruster photos...]
Tested at PEPL:1992
Developer:NASA Lewis (Glenn) Reseach Center
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