New ESA Patent created in CDF
CAD image of the patented innovative propulsion system
30 August 2010
The ESTEC Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) has been used for the first time to support the creation of an ESA patent.
The patent refers to an innovative propulsion system with three times higher specific impulse than conventional chemical engines and high intrinsic thrust. This could be used for future interplanetary human missions reducing the associated mass and travel time.
The system seeks to re-use excess energy within the propellant heating chamber to generate electromagnetic energy and induction heating into the flow downstream the nozzle by means of a thermodynamic cycle.
Starting from an original idea by an ESA staff member, CDF has carried out the development of the concept, the verification of its feasibility and it has provided a first quantitative design for the associated system. This activity has been instrumental in the acceptance of the patent filing.
The CDF team was composed of specialists in disciplines like plasma physics, thermodynamics, turbomachinery and fluid physics which had to purpose build analysis tools to evaluate the system concept.
The concept includes two main innovations:
A counter-rotating turbine that has been proposed for the power generation required to create the induction field.
A large inductor operating at very high temperature and based on ceramic materials.
The process to turn a new idea into an ESA patent is actually quite long and encompasses the evaluation by the ESA Patent Group regarding the “patentability” of the proposed invention. The Patent Group also assesses ESA’s interest in filing for the patent, its potential usage application and its geographical applicability.
The CDF study has helped passing successfully the ESA Patent Group scrutiny by providing technical justification and analysis in support of the request for filing.