The Justus-Liebig University of Giessen

The University has cooperated with space industry in the development of RIT-technology,

Foto Credit: Katrina Friese


The Justus-Liebig University of Giessen was founded in 1607 by landgrave Louis V of Hesse Darmstadt. University’s teaching and research portfolio is organised in 11 faculties covering the complete spectrum of subjects including all-natural sciences, social sciences, law, and medicine.

The research in the field of electric propulsion at JLU dates back to the pioneering work of Prof. Horst Löb in 1962, when the idea of an ion propulsion system using an RF discharge was born. This was the starting point of radio-frequency ion-thrusters (RIT) technology. The initial research and development (R&D) work focused on a 10-cm ioniser diameter RF-thruster (RIT-10), which reached the state of a laboratory prototype towards the end of the sixties. Then, during the course of Giessen EP activities, a “RIT-family” with ioniser diameters of 2.5, 4, 10, 15, 20, and 35 cm has been developed, studied, optimised and tested.

The University has cooperated with space industry in the development of RIT-technology, e.g. in the context of the EURECA mission in 1992 or the Artemis-satellite launch in 2002. Between 2012 and 2015, JLU with the University of Applied Sciences at Giessen (THM) as a partner held the excellence project RITSAT funded by 3.8 Mio € by the state of Hesse for promoting RIT technology. In this context, the research areas were expanded including, in particular, electronics development and theoretical modelling. During the RITSAT project, two agreements, one between ArianeGroup and JLU and another between the Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology of German Aerospace Center were signed to promote the cooperation in the field of electric propulsion.

Within the GIESEPP MP project, the Justus-Liebig University of Giessen in represented by the EP group that consists of seven people: 2 researchers (Prof. Klar and Dr. Holste), 5 PhD students and 4 Master and Bachelor students. The leading stuff of EP group has extensive experience in the design, construction, and operation of test stands and the development of plasma and plume diagnostics.

The Justus-Liebig University of Giessen team will ensure modelling of thrusters, thruster tests within vacuum test facilities​. JLU operates several vacuum test facilities. The full scale 30 m3 JUMBO vacuum facility is suitable for testing large thrusters such as ArianeGroup’s RIT 2X. The smaller test facilities, such as the BigMac EVO, can accommodate for testing low power thrusters, for example, RIT-10G. Additional test facilities are being set up that will make it possible to examine thrusters in terms of their electromagnetic compatibility with other components of the satellite.


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