Hybrid Chemical-Electric Propulsion (HCEP)

Period of Performance: 06/12/2012 - 03/04/2013


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Electrodynamic Applications, Inc.
P.O. Box 131460
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Research Institution

Pennsylvania State University
110 Technology Center Building
University Park, PA 16802
Institution POC


ABSTRACT: The proposed Phase I efforts seek to develop a dual-mode Hybrid Chemical Electric Propulsion thruster concept design based on the extensive microwave torch/arcjet experience of PSU and Hall and ion experience of EDA. The primary focus of the Phase I effort will be demonstrate the operation of an ionic liquid microwave thruster in the high-T/P regime and the basic operation of a Hall and/or ion thruster on an ionic liquid simulant. Microwave-generated plasmas have been used in a variety of propulsion systems. They can be used to ignite and accelerate the combustion of a chemical propellant, to add heat to a propellant gas in an electrothermal thruster concept, or to provide propellant ionization for an ion or Hall thruster. High power microwave generation using vacuum electron devices such as magnetrons or klystrons are highly efficient, approaching 90% electrical efficiency. What is proposed is a new spacecraft electric propulsion concept that, through the use of a microwave-generated plasma, can operate as a chemical thruster, a low ISP electric thruster or a high ISP electric thruster, using the same propellant for all three regimes. The propellant would be an energetic ionic liquid, an example being HAN-based monopropellants, along with other energetic ionic liquids under development. BENEFIT: The successful completion of the Phase II portion of this program will result in an electric thruster that can operate at specific impulses ranging from chemical to 3000 seconds with advanced low toxicity monopropellants that can be incorporated for use on spacecraft and satellites, resulting in higher performance over a broad range of operating conditions with more environmentally friendly propellants. EDA will be able to offer energetic ionic liquid spacecraft electric thruster systems that will give higher performance with more environmentally friendly propellants, products that will have high commercial value. The reduced toxicity of the propellants directly translates into a reduction of the propellant handling and spacecraft fueling costs, whereas the increased density Isp allows for a significant reduction in spacecraft volume and mass. The Hybrid Chemical-Electric Propulsion thruster can provide the means to move away, for the first time after more than fifty years of their use, from all the negatives associated with current storable mono- and bipropellants. EDA is committed to developing spacecraft propulsion related systems such as a Hybrid Chemical Electric Propulsion thruster. EDA is uniquely qualified to advance this technology rapidly through initial prototype development and qualification due to its experience in flight hardware. The PIs of this proposed project have first-hand experience with commercial EP devices having assisted three major aerospace engineering firms with thruster (and associated electronics) qualification. Additionally, the HCEP team has experience with the development of flight hardware that has been flown in space.