The gridded ion engine standardised electric propulsion platform

The gridded ion engine standardised electric propulsion platform

Such electric propulsion platforms as developed by the GIESEPP MP project are typically developed by the consortiums that comprises the best professionals in the field. Each partner is responsible for a specific work that require high precision, extensive knowledge and experience in the field.

A plug and play platform is designed to simplify the process of integrating electric propulsion thrusters into a spacecraft. By using standardised interfaces and components, the platform can be quickly and easily integrated in the spacecraft without the need for extensive customisation.

GIESEPP MP gridded ion engine standardised electric propulsion platform 

The system developed by the GIESEPP MP consortium proposes various advantages comparing to hall effect thrusters such as propellant consumption (it consumes less propellant) and higher life time. In addition, the easy and quick integration (the plug and play) allows the potential clients to save substantial amount of money and time.

The gridded ion engine standardised electric propulsion platform

1. Power Processing Unit (PPU) | Developed by Airbus Crisa

The PPU is a key component of an electric propulsion system. The power processing unit receives electrical power from the spacecraft’s power system and converts it into the required voltage and current with the waveform needed to operate the thruster.

The efficiency and reliability of the PPU is crucial to this system. A well-designed and properly functioning PPU can help to maximize the system’s thrust efficiency, minimize energy consumption, and ensure safe and reliable operation of the spacecraft. In the context of space applications, the harsh environment and other boundary conditions must also be taken into account when designing a PPU. These include thermal management, which cannot rely on convective cooling by the ambient air as on Earth, and the increased particle radiation compared to the Earth’s surface. In addition, the total mass must be as low as possible for the rocket launch.

2. Radio Frequency Generator (RFG)

The radio frequency generator consists of a power supply, a modulator to generate the high-frequency signal, and a matching network to ensure that the signal is properly delivered to the thruster. The efficiency and reliability of the RF generation system are crucial to the overall performance of the electric propulsion system.

3., 4., 5 Propellant feeding system

3. Xenon storage

The Xenon gas is stored in high-pressure tanks. The gas is then fed into the thruster and ionized by an electric discharge. The resulting positively charged ions are accelerated by an electric field and ejected out of the thruster, creating thrust. Xenon is used as a fuel because it is relatively easy to ionise and, as a gas, does not have to be heated to be in a gaseous state. However, xenon is a very expensive gas, which means that it should be used efficiently. The efficient use of fuel is precisely the strength of radio frequency ion thrusters such as those used in the GIESEPP-MP project.

4. Pressure regulators

The pressure regulator in a gridded ion thruster is used to regulate the flow of the propellant into the thruster chamber. The regulator ensures that the propellant is delivered at a constant and precise pressure.

5. Flow control units 

The flow control unit is critical to the operation of the gridded ion engine, as it ensures that the Xenon propellant is delivered at the correct flow rate to the thruster.

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