Progress Towards a Miniaturized Electrospray Thruster for Propulsion of Small Spacecraft
Miniaturized electrical thrusters based on electrospray (or colloid) emitters could rev- olutionize the spacecraft industry by providing efficient propulsion capabilities to micro and nano satellites (1-100 kg). We report on our recent advances in the development of this technology within the MicroThrust (www.microthrust.eu) European consortium. We present the design and operation of the currently fabricated and next generation emitter arrays, describing their microfabrication process and measured performance. The emitters are out-of-plane internally fed capillaries micromachined in monolithic silicon. They are 100 µm tall and have an inner diameter of 5-10 µm. We operate the devices in both unipolar and bi-polar modes and find that the latest devices operate in a mixed regime, with the emitted spray a composition of ions and droplets. Their specific impulse is consequently in the few hundred seconds, highlighting the need for higher impedance, smaller emitters. Onset voltages are of than 800-850V for 200 µm inner diameter extractors, current levels for 19 emitter arrays of 2-3 µA. Preliminary analysis hints to plume half-angles of 35-40◦, although these values depend on the operation mode and beam composition.
Record created on 2014-03-23, modified on 2016-08-09