NASA STTR 2009 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 09-2 T3.01-9893
RESEARCH SUBTOPIC TITLE: Technologies for Space Power and Propulsion
PROPOSAL TITLE: Next-Generation Ion Thruster Design Tool to Support Future Space Missions

NAME: Tech-X Corporation NAME: Wright State University
STREET: 5621 Arapahoe Avenue, Suite A STREET: 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
CITY: Boulder CITY: Dayton
STATE/ZIP: CO  80303 - 1379 STATE/ZIP: OH  45435 - 0001
PHONE: (720) 974-1855 PHONE: (937) 775-2425

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Sudhakar Mahalingam
5621 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80303 - 1379
(303) 996-7527

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 6
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Computational tools that accurately predict the performance of electric propulsion
devices are highly desirable and beneficial to NASA and the broader electric propulsion
community. The current state-of-the-art in electric propulsion modeling relies heavily on
empirical data and on numerous computational "knobs". In Phase I of this project, we
developed the most detailed ion engine discharge chamber model that currently exists.
This is a kinetic model that simulates all particles in the discharge chamber along with a
physically correct simulation of the electric fields. In addition, kinetic erosion models are
included for modeling the ion-impingement effects on thruster component erosion. For
Phase II of this project, the goal is to make this sophisticated computer program a user
friendly program that NASA and other governmental and industrial customers are able to
utilize. In Phase II we will implement a number of advanced numerical routines to bring
the computational time down to a commercially acceptable level. At the end of Phase II,
NASA will have a highly sophisticated, user friendly ion engine discharge chamber
modeling tool that will save time and expense in designing new and different size ion
engines, as well as analyzing existing ion engine performance.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
This ion thruster discharge chamber computational tool will reduce the time and expense
that NASA incurs in the development of future ion engines. There are a number of space
missions which ion engines could fulfill if different size engines could be designed
quickly and cheaply. The computational tool being developed for this project will help to
make this happen. This tool is also valuable in extending NASA's understanding of the
current 40-cm diameter NEXT thruster that NASA GRC is currently testing for use in
space. This tool can be used to extend the operating range of the NEXT ion engine to
higher power levels, as is being considered in the NEXT STEP program. With some
adjustments, this computational tool can simulate Hall thrusters, such as the HiVHAC
thruster, which is currently being developed at NASA GRC.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Electric propulsion is important to other government agencies including the Air Force
and the Navy. Air Force electric propulsion will benefit from additional/advanced
plasma-surface interaction models available in our computer code. The multi-billion
dollar military and commercial satellite industries design and develop electric thrusters
similar to the ones used at NASA for the purposes of satellite station keeping and orbit
changing maneuvers in space. These industries could benefit from sophisticated, userfriendly
computational tools, one of which we are developing. The innovations proposed
in this work will also benefit the ion source and plasma processing industries which are
utilized in materials processing applications and the electronics industries.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.)
Electromagnetic Thrusters
Electrostatic Thrusters

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