Carbon Nanotube Based Electric Propulsion Thruster with Low Power Consumption
Field emission electric propulsion (FEEP) thrusters have gained considerable attention for spacecrafts disturbance compensation because of excellent characteristics. The application of current FEEP has been slow in developing mainly caused by high specific power, which limit the milli-Newton thruster development due to insufficient onboard power. Dramatic field improvement from nanometer carbon nanotubes (CNTs) is a big advantage to increase the FEEP thrust more than 10 times under constant specific impulse (power). Phase I study showed a lower power consumption of 0.027 W/?YN from the CNT based ion source, comparing with the power consumption of 0.063 W/?YN from the traditional thruster. The CNT based FEEP ion source will be developed innovative in several aspects: integration of CNTs into the ion emission anode, buildup of the edge anode structure by the combination of the metal tip emitter and the slit emitter, and construction of a edge anode array capable of selective operation of different thrust unit. The power consumption of for ion thrust is expected to be reduced by a factor of 5 and more. The application of the room temperature carbon nanotube field emission electron neutralizer will further reduce the total power input to the ion engine.
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