Nanosatellite Thrusters

A CAD rendering of a proposed Cubesat incorporating CAT.

previous personnel
Tim Collard, Ingrid Goglio, Frans Ebersohn, JP Sheehan, and Benjamin Longmier

principal investigators
Alec Gallimore, Benjamin Jorns

project sponsors
Kickstarter, NASA

associated thrusters

Development, laboratory experiments, and flight testing of propulsion systems is essential for the future of nanosatellites. Highly efficient propulsion systems enable new missions such as improved operation in Earth orbit, lunar surveying, and interplanetary exploration. Nanosatellites also serve as an inexpensive test bed for new propulsion technologies which can be scaled for larger missions. Among these new technologies are magnetic nozzles, new propellants (iodine, water), and new propellant feed systems.

Performance measurements of CAT will be found with a micro-newton thrust stand designed at PEPL. Plume measurements are made using the the Langmuir probe, retarding potential analyzer, and emissive probe diagnostics at PEPL. Simulations of the CAT thruster will also be performed with a newly developed quasi-one-dimensional particle-in-cell code.

Preliminary performance measurements of an integrated thruster, including power processing and propellant management units, has demonstrated lower than expected performance (~1s-10s of uN). This project is no longer active while the root causes of the demonstrated performance are being investigated.

Selected Publications

  • Initial Experiments of a New Permanent Magnet Helicon Thruster

    Sheehan, J.P., Longmier, B.W., Reese, I., Collard, T., Ebersohn, F.H., Dale, E.T., Wachs, B.N., Ostermann, M.E.

    41st IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science, Washington, D.C., Presentation, May 25-29, 2014

  • Quasi-one-dimensional code for particle-in-cell simulation of magnetic nozzle expansion

    Ebersohn, F.H., Sheehan, J.P., Longmier, B.W., and Shebalin, J.V.

    50th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, Cleveland, OH, AIAA 2014-4027, July 28-30, 2014

  • New Low-Power Plasma Thruster for Nanosatellites

    Sheehan, J.P., Longmier, B.W., Reese, I., and Collard, T.

    50th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, Cleveland, OH, AIAA 2014-3914, July 28-30, 2014

  • Development of Novel Propellant Feed Systems for the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster

    Collard, T., Sheehan, J.P., and Longmier, B.W

    University of Michigan Engineering Graduate Symposium, Ann Arbor, MI, Poster, November 14, 2014

  • Technique for Two-Frequency Optimization of an ECR Magnetic Nozzle Thruster

    Wachs, B., and Jorns, B.

    36th International Electric Propulsion Conference, Vienna, Austria, IEPC-2019-219, 2019