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Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: IA | Phase: COMPET-3-2016-a | Award Amount: 10.60M | Year: 2017

The consortium proposes an innovative activity to develop, build and test to TRL5 the first European Plug and Play Gridded Ion Engine Standardised Electric Propulsion Platform (GIESEPP) to operate Airbus Safran Launchers and QinetiQ Space ion engines. These are the only European ion engines in the 200-700W (LEO) and 5kW (GEO) domains that are space-proven, and the consortiums intention will be to improve European competitiveness and to maintain and secure the European non-dependence in this field. The project will design and develop a standardised electric propulsion platform for 200-700W and 5kW applications, which has the capability to run either Airbus Safran Launchers or QinetiQ thrusters. In addition, the 5kW electric propulsion system will be designed to allow clustering for 20kW EPS for space transportation, exploration and interplanetary missions. In order to cope with challenging mission scenarios, Dual Mode functionality of the thrusters will be realised. This ensures that the beneficial high Isp characteristics of Gridded Ion Engines are maintained, whilst also offering a competitive higher thrust mode. The GIESEPP systems will not be limited to xenon as an operating medium; assessments will be performed to ensure functionality with alternative propellants. The approach to system standardisation and the resulting solutions will provide highly cost competitive and innovative EPS for current and future satellite markets, whilst meeting the cost efficiency requirements. The proposal will describe the roadmap to higher TRL by 2023-2024, providing a cost competitive EPS. Finally, the proposal will address efficient exploitation of the results, demonstrating how the activity will positively increase the impact and prospects for European Ion Engines and the European Electric Propulsion System community.

Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-RISE | Phase: MSCA-RISE-2016 | Award Amount: 792.00K | Year: 2017

PATH is intended to promote a collaborative researches focused in the development of high density plasma sources implemented with the Exchange of staff personnel between the partners of the network. The research will also address transfer of knowledge and training of the researchers in the specific field of plasma sources and its applications in the telecommunication sector. High density plasma sources find large number of industrial applications from material treatment to Telecommunication. Overcoming the density limit of current source will open new frontier in several technological field. PATH aims at cross linking different competences to study and develop prototype of plasma sources and plasma antenna based on hybrid technologies based on Radiofrequency and Hollow cathode technologies. A Gaseous Plasma Antenna (GPA) is a plasma discharge confined in a dielectric tube that uses partially or fully ionized gas to generate and receive electromagnetic waves; GPAs are virtually transparent above the plasma frequency and become invisible when turned off. Unlike ordinary metallic antennas, GPAs and Plasma Antenna Arrays can be reconfigured electrically (rather than mechanically) with respect to impedance, frequency, bandwidth and directivity on time scales the order of microseconds or milliseconds. It is also possible to stack arrays of GPAs designed to operate at different frequencies. A Plasma Antenna will be able to: (i) identifying the direction of incoming signal, (ii) tracking and locating the antenna beam on the mobile/target, (iii) beam-steering while minimizing interferences. Actual technology is based mainly on: (i) DC discharge, (ii) AC discharge, (iii) RF discharge, (iv) Microwaves, (v) Hollow cathode. Improvement of plasma source performances require a strong effort in term of modelling and technology. The aim of PATH is to merge European competences to make a substantial step toward innovative hybrid plasma sources.

Coletti M.,University of Southampton | Guarducci F.,Mars Space Ltd. | Gabriel S.B.,University of Southampton
Acta Astronautica | Year: 2011

Cubesats, allowing for cheap access to space, are one of the fastest growing sectors in the space industry. A Pulsed Plasma Thruster to perform drag compensation for a Cubesat platform, with the aim of doubling the time needed for the Cubesat to naturally de-orbit (hence doubling its lifetime) is currently under development by Clyde Space Ltd., Mars Space Ltd. and the University of Southampton under an ESA funded project. In this paper the design of the thruster will be presented together with preliminary experimental results. The preliminary test results suggest that the thruster will be able to meet the mission requirements. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Coletti M.,Mars Space Ltd. | Ciaralli S.,University of Southampton | Gabriel S.B.,University of Southampton
IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science | Year: 2015

In this paper, the design and performances of a pulsed plasma thruster (PPT) for nanosatellite applications will be presented. The breadboard model PPT presented in this paper will be a part of six PPTs propulsion system designed to provide attitude and translational control for a 20-kg nanosatellite for a total delta-V of 40 m/s. The thruster performances have been characterized in terms of electrical parameters, mass bit, impulse bit, and specific impulse. The thruster was found to be compliant with the mission requirement. Moreover, preliminary electromagnetic noise interference measurements have been performed. The spark plug discharge was found to be the main source of noise as already found by previous authors. From the collected data, it can be inferred that the noise is mostly radiated. © 1973-2012 IEEE.

Frollani D.,University of Southampton | Coletti M.,Mars Space Ltd | Gabriel S.B.,University of Southampton
Measurement Science and Technology | Year: 2014

A hanging thrust balance has been designed, manufactured and tested at the University of Southampton. The current design allows for direct steady thrust measurements ranging from 0.1 to 3 mN but this can be easily extended to measure thrust in a different range. Moreover the chosen balance design and the thrust measurement procedure allow for the cancellation of thermal drifts. The thrust balance was tested with a T6 hollow cathode thruster providing measurements with an uncertainty of about 9.7%. The thrust data were compared to those obtained with another direct thrust balance and they are in quantitative agreement - the maximum difference being only 6%. © 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd.

Ciaralli S.,University of Southampton | Coletti M.,Mars Space Ltd | Gabriel S.B.,University of Southampton
Measurement Science and Technology | Year: 2013

This paper describes the design and testing of a direct torsional impulsive thrust balance. The design philosophy allows the balance to measure impulse bits (Ibit) in the range of 20-120 μN s typical of pulsed plasma thrusters (PPTs) for pico- and nano-satellites. The uncertainty in the Ibit measurement is quantified to be about 8.8%, smaller than the typical values of this kind of balance (between 12% and 15%). This has been possible due to an in-depth analysis of all the possible sources of disturbance, which allows the choice of the most suitable measurement and estimation methods to minimize the errors. The balance has successfully been used for testing two PPTs with different propellant feeding system, nominal energy, mass and delivered impulse bits. © 2013 IOP Publishing Ltd.

Agency: GTR | Branch: Innovate UK | Program: | Phase: Collaborative Research & Development | Award Amount: 37.34K | Year: 2014

Mar Space Ltd is the first company to offer pulsed plasma thruster (PPTs) suitable to cubesat and nanosatellites operations. Thanks to PPTs these classes of satellites can increase their capability e.g. increasing their lifetime in space, flying in a formation or modifying their orbit ultimately increasing the services they can provide hence their economic value. The aim of this project is to develop a mathematical model to be used to design PPTs with optimized performances. The use of such a model will allow the consortium to avoid long empirical design phase hence resulting in shorter and cheaper design time and final product. This will allow Mars Space to respond more quickly to customers proving cost effective tailored propulsion solution.

Agency: GTR | Branch: Innovate UK | Program: | Phase: Collaborative Research & Development | Award Amount: 187.88K | Year: 2015

In the past years Mars Space Ltd and Clyde Space Ltd have developed, qualified and sold to customers the first units of an electric propulsion (EP) subsystem for cubesat applications called PPTCUP. At present PPTCUP is the only cubesat EP subsystem to have been subjected to flight qualification. Nevertheless, since the development of this product started, the cubesat market has significantly evolved becoming a commercial reality with Earth Observation (EO) cubesats attracting investments in excess of 100 M$ and with two big companies representing about 40% of the total market. The goal of this project will be to modify the existing PPTCUP design to increase its performances and to obtain a product that is tailor made for these customers capturing a significant share of the EO cubesat market and setting the standard for cubesat propulsion. To achieve such a goal Mars Space and Clyde Space are collaborating with the Satellite Application Catapult and the Advanced Manufacturing Centre of the University of Sheffield (part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult) to leverage their know-how and experience in the cubesat market and in advanced manufacturing technologies.

Agency: GTR | Branch: Innovate UK | Program: | Phase: Innovation Voucher | Award Amount: 5.00K | Year: 2014

Projections for cubesats and nanosatellites show that more than 2000 units will be launched between 2014 and 2020. Providing them with a light and reliable propulsion system will increase their capabilities making them appealing for a wider range of missions and increasing their economical attractiveness. Electric propulsion systems (EPS) that could be miniaturized to match the mass and volume budgets of these small satellites represent an excellent solution thanks to their high performances. Mars Space is already at the forefront of research in the field of micropropulsion and has the aim of making its technologies the standard propulsion system for cubesats and nanosatellites. The innovation voucher will allow Mars Space to benefit from the help of the Satellite Catapult centre to produce a solid business strategy to increase its possibilities of capturing a big share of the cubesat and nanosatellite propulsion market.

Agency: GTR | Branch: Innovate UK | Program: | Phase: Fast Track | Award Amount: 46.31K | Year: 2012

Cubesat are small satellites with a mass of about 1 – 3 Kg and provide quick and cheap access to space. At present a propulsion subsystem for this class of spacecraft does not exist hence their manoeuvrability and lifetime are limited. Mars Space Ltd and Clyde Space Ltd have already developed a propulsion subsystem (called PPTCUP) able to double the orbital lifetime of a cubesat. During testing the prototype outperformed the requirements in terms thrust and propellant consumption but there was insufficient time and resources available to demonstrate adequate lifetime. The project will investigate the parameters that influence the thruster lifetime with the aim of modifying the PPTCUP design to achieve good performances and long lifetime.

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