Clustered Vacuum Arc Thruster for Deep Space Missions

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NAS3-02064
Agency Tracking Number: 013596
Amount: $69,997.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2002
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: N/A
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
2235 Polvorosa Avenue, Suite 230, San Leandro, CA, 94577
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Jochen Schein
 Senior Scientist
 (510) 483-4156
Business Contact
 Mahadevan Krishnan
Title: President
Phone: (510) 483-4156
Research Institution
Alameda Applied Sciences Corporation proposes to develop a new Clustered Vacuum Arc Thruster (CVAT) as an electric propulsion micro-thruster for microspacecraft with mass <=40kg with available thruster power 40W. For deep space missions, high Isp thrusters are needed to minimize on board propellant mass. For electric thrusters such as the Pulsed Plasma Thruster and the Vacuum Arc Thruster, a challenge is feed of the propellant during long missions requiring >kg of total propellant. If the feed mechanism involves moving parts, its reliability is an issue, especially with active control. An innovative solution to this problem is proposed: deploy an array of individual, static thrusters, each of which delivers 10g of total eroded propellant. An array of 100 such devices would then deliver a kg of propellant, with no moving parts. The innovation is the use of miniature solid-state switches in our inductive PPU driver that enable programmable switching of the drive power pulses from one thruster to another. By so doing, one effectively switches power out of a given cathode once it has completed its useful mission life. Such a Clustered Vacuum Arc Thruster array (CVAT) has no moving parts and yet delivers 1kg propellant loads for various nanosatellite missions.

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

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