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Low Mass Electromagnetic Plasmoid Thruster with Integrated PPU

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX11CB24C
Agency Tracking Number: 094905
Amount: $599,987.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: S3.04
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2009
Award Year: 2011
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2011-06-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2014-01-31
Small Business Information
Redmond, WA 98052-5858
United States
DUNS: 044381445
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 David Kirtley
 Principal Investigator
 (425) 425-8900
Business Contact
 John Slough
Title: President
Phone: (425) 867-8900
Research Institution

The Electromagnetic Plasmoid Thruster (EMPT) is a revolutionary electric propulsion thruster and power processing (PPU) system that will allow a dramatic decrease in system mass and increase in thrust efficiency over traditional 500-3000 W propulsion systems. The high specific power (>700 W/kg) and high efficiency of EMPT will enable a wide range of deep space missions such as Neptune, Pluto and Oort Cloud orbital insertion. Additionally, a solar electric EMPT system would dramatically increase the capability and reduce the travel time of an asteroid or Martian moon sample and return mission due to the variable-power, low-mass propulsion system. The EMPT employs a Rotating Magnetic Field (RMF) to produce large plasma currents inside a conical thruster creating a plasmoid that is magnetically isolated from the thruster walls. The intensified gradient magnetic field from the plasmoid together with the large plasma currents result in an enormous body force that expels the plasmoid at high velocity. The EMPT is a pulsed device, nominally operating at 1 kWe with 0.5-1 Joule discharges at 1-2 kHz. Presented is a full description of the relevant plasma physics as well as the thruster and PPU design. The Phase I EMPT demonstrated the multi-pulse formation and ejection of plasmoids at 0.1-3 Joules and 500-6,000 s Isp on both Xenon and Argon. Additionally, it demonstrated zero erosion or life limiting phenomena. The focus of the proposal is the experimental validation of an integrated thruster and PPU operating in a steady-state mode. The EMPT will be characterized over a range of parameters: input power from 200-3000 Watts, and 1,500-4,000 seconds specific impulse. The integrated thruster and PPU to be built and tested will have a total system mass of less than 1.5 kg. Successful completion of Phase II will be a fully integrated, steady-state demonstration of thruster and integrated power processing. Phase II will mature the technology from a TRL level 4 to 6.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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