A US-manufactured hall effect thruster satellite propulsion system

The domestic manufacture of the Hall effectthruster (HET) satellite propulsion system hasbeen created through an Air Force ResearchLaboratory (AFRL) Propulsion Directoratetechnology transfer project. A Hall thruster is asmall rocket engine that positions andmaintains a satellite in the correct orbit. Theuse of electrical rather than chemicalcombustionachieves fuelsavings in themagnitude of tens tohundreds ofkilograms. Thediminished fueldemands translateinto launch vehicledownsizing, savingmillions of dollarsper launch.The team of Dr. J.Michael Fife andDaron Bromaghimmanage two Hallthrusterdevelopmentprograms that have worked synergistically toyield commercially capable HET systems.Technology transfer started with the uptake ofresearch previously performed by Russianscientists. By building on that foundation witha Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)project, a 200-W HET became viable for the TacSat 2 satellite program. Project data andexpertise were shared for the relateddevelopment of a more high-powered HET tomeet a military communications satellitemission. Both projects have requiredtechnology exchanges between multiplecontractors and federal interests. A CRADAwas put in place for the transfer of data andmaterialsbetween AFRLand a primecontractor.Developmentof the 200-WHET and themore powerful4.5-kW HEThas beensuccessful,and fundedmissions arecommitted forlaunch datesin 2004 and2006,respectively.Both HET systems are expected to becomecommercially available through the projectcontractors after the missions are completed.
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