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Publication Title | ADVANCES IN APPLIED PLASMA SCIENCE 2011

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ADVANCES IN APPLIED PLASMA SCIENCE, Vol.8, 2011 ISAPS ’11, Hakone
Advanced Plasma (Propulsion) Concepts at IRS
G. Herdrich1, U. Bauder1, A. Boxberger1, R. A. Gabrielli1, M. Lau1, D. Petkow2, M. Pfeiffer1, C. Syring1, S. Fasoulas1
1Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme/Institute of Space Systems (IRS), University of Stuttgart
Stuttgart, 70569, Pfaffenwaldring 31, Germany
2ESA-ESTEC, Advanced Concepts Team (ACT)
Noordwijk, 2200AG, Keplerlaan 1, The Netherlands
ABSTRACT
Several advanced plasma propulsion designs have been developed and characterized at IRS in the past years. Among them are the hybrid thruster TIHTUS, the steady state applied field thrusters AF MPD ZT1 and ZT2 and advanced iMPD designs. These concepts show promising potential for future missions. The paper will discuss the designs and their operational features.
In addition, more advanced systems are under investigation, among others fusion systems and magnetic sail systems. These systems are not likely to see in-flight testing within the next years, but they offer opportunities for investigation potentially applicable to terrestrial designs.
KEYWORDS: Plasma systems, advanced space propulsion, plasma modeling and simulations
Introduction
To this day, mankind has only limited access to its solar system and space flight to the closest planets has remained a technical challenge. This arises from the limited technical abilities especially in the field of propulsion, which is intuitively known for launchers. Even when it comes to interplanetary transfer, present day’s propulsion systems’ characteristically low performance restricts missions by forcing prohibitively long voyage durations. In general, there are two ways to overcome this arduousness: Improving the propulsive characteristics of existing systems, and considering new approaches.
The engineering objective in advancing existing mass ejection propulsion systems can be identified performing analyses and optimization, such as proposed in [1]. These considerations show, that there’s an overall benefit in raising the specific impulse, but also that this has to be tuned with the acceleration of the system, its masses and last but not least both its efficiency and its mass specific power. The latter is also the driver in the conception of more advanced mass ejection space propulsion.
Other space propulsion concepts not ejecting mass such as magnetospheric sail (M2P2) have to be studied differently. This contribution concentrates recent efforts and results in advancing space propulsion at the Institute of Space Systems (IRS): In the first part, recent results on MPDs and a presentation of the hybrid thruster TIHTUS are given. The second part of the contribution looks out to more advanced concepts based on fusion and M2P2.
1
1. Steady state applied field MPD
The applied-field MPD (AF-MPD) thruster is a propulsion concept with high specific impulse and relatively high thrust density compared to other common electric propulsion systems such as ion and arc jet thrusters. The AF-MPD thruster can be operated in a very wide power range up to some MW power levels. AF-MPD thrusters use four acceleration mechanisms: expansion through nozzle; interaction between self-induced magnetic field and discharge current; interaction of discharge current and applied magnetic field; interaction of induced hall current and applied magnetic field.
Based on DLR’s AF-MPD X16 thruster a laboratory AF- MPD ZT1 has been built up for a power level of 12 kW to investigate the optimization of thrust and efficiency. The AF-MPD ZT1 was successfully operated in steady-state mode at discharge power range of 5 – 6 kW (fig.1 and fig.2).
Figure 1: Plume of the AF-MPD ZT1 thruster in steady-state operation with 5.4 kW (Argon)
For future work, this data has to be extended in order to
establish an improvement of scaling model [2].
To provide a better experimental data for comparing with the SAMSA Code [3], a new active water cooled confi-

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