Electrostatic and Electrochemical Optimization of Electrospray Thrusters
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Interest in small-satellite missions has grown recently, however there has been no propulsion technology capable of scaling down to meet mission needs. Electrospray thrusters have this scalability in thrust, size, and mass, but achieving increased electrospray thrust density requires micro- and nano-scale component engineering. Recent work has produced thrusters operating at promising levels for near-future small-satellite missions. Improvements in performance must occur at the level of the propellant emission sites where physical properties can be optimized for specific mission requirements. An integrated model of electrospray emission for prediction of propulsive performance will be developed and tested. With a working model, various combinations of thruster properties can be examined to determine configurations which lead to desired performance regimes. Additionally, the application of electrospray thrusters to example mission architectures (station-keeping, orbital transfer, long-duration operation, etc.) will be investigated to determine the impact development in this area will have upon future space exploration.