Hall-Effect Thruster Modifications for Dual-Mode Electric Propulsion

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Starfire Industries, LLC
2109 South Oak Street Array
Champaign, IL 61820
Principal Investigator


The integrated NASA/DoD electric propulsion objectives are for a specific mass less than 3 kg/kW while demonstrating a throttlable thrust-to-power ratio of 100:1 at a specific impulse of 1,000 sec down to 40:1 at 4,000 sec with an operational lifetime exceeding 20,000 hours. Modern Hall-effect thrusters (HETs) are a proven technology with flight heritage, established manufacturing readiness and testing channels that nearly meet the desired specifications (as shown in Figure 1). However, the major limitation is that HETs fail to achieve all four of objectives simultaneously.This Phase I feasibility study is focused on a proof-of-concept experiment to alleviate the HET dual-mode operational envelope limitation for both high thrust-to-power and high specific impulse. Starfire Industries believes that a "low hanging fruit" modification to HETs exists, and such an improvement would be evolutionary to enable multi-mission EP systems for NASA's Science Mission Directorate and DoD platforms. Towards this end, Starfire has partnered with Aerojet Corporation to rapidly demonstrate feasibility in Phase I through experimental modification to an existing HET system. Ifresults are confirmed, a Phase II design can be driven to yield immediate upgrades for flight-qualified HET systems for near-term payback.