NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-1 X2.04-9542
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Electric Propulsion Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: High Thrust Efficiency MPD Thruster

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Tethers Unlimited
11711 N. Creek Pkwy S., Suite D113
Bothell, WA 98011 - 8808
(425) 486-0100

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Robert Hoyt
11711 N. Creek Pkwy S., Suite D113
Bothell, WA 98011 - 8808
(425) 486-0100

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thrusters can provide the high-specific impulse, high-power propulsion required to support human and robotic exploration missions to the asteroids, Moon, Mars, and the outer planets. MPD thrusters, however, have traditionally been plagued by poor thrust efficiencies due primarily to power lost into the anode caused by the Hall effect. We propose to combine three innovative techniques to create a high thrust efficiency MPD thruster. The first is an unconventional applied magnetic field geometry that counter the Hall effect near the anode surface, the second is shaping of the electrodes to optimize current uniformity, and the third is "through-anode" propellant injection to prevent depletion of the anode plasma. In prior experiments we demonstrated elimination of the anode fall using these novel magnetic fields, and in recent simulation efforts we developed novel magnetic nozzle designs that succeed in counteracting the current concentrations and plasma starvation effects that cause the anode fall. These magnetic nozzles also showed the ability to increase the amount of axial thrust extracted from the accelerated plasma by over 50%. In the Phase I, we will test the effect of a prototype 'optimized' magnetic nozzle on the thrust efficiency of a MPD thruster; both the magnetic nozzle prototype and thruster test article are already constructed. Additionally, we will develop technology for through-anode propellant injection, and evaluate its performance through tests and simulations.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Manned exploration of the asteroids, Mars, and the outer planets will require fast transport of personnel and supplies to these destinations. Due to their high specific impulses and ability to process hundreds or thousands of kilowatts of power in a small device, MPD thrusters can provide shorter trip times and higher payload fractions than currently available propulsion technologies. However, significant improvements in MPD thruster efficiency and lifetime are required to achieve this potential. The anode propellant injection and electrode geometry optimization innovations to be developed in the proposed effort have strong potential to achieve the necessary efficiency and lifetime improvements, and thus may enable MPD thruster technologies to dramatically reduce trip times and costs for manned and robotic Exploration missions.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Magnetically nozzled MPD thrusters will also provide cost-effective in-space propulsion for orbit raising of commercial spacecraft such as GEO communications satellites and orbit transfer of large DoD payloads. In terrestrial applications, MPD thruster derived technology has applications in environmentally-friendly materials processing, for uses such as selective material ablation, ion implantation, and surface tempering. Our PI has previously collaborated in the successful development of a magnetically nozzled plasma accelerator for materials processing that is now in commercial use by the 3M company. Additionally, magnetically-nozzled MPD technology has applications in pulsed-power systems as well as fusion power research.

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.)
Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices
Spacecraft Main Engine

Form Generated on 09-03-10 12:12