There are various ways in which to classify rocket propulsion systems, but one way of interest is by the physical method employed to produce thrust. In a majority of rocket systems, thrust is provided by thermodynamic expansion of a gas. The internal energy of the gas is hereby converted to kinetic energy of an exhaust flow. The thrust is then produced by the resulting gas pressure on the surfaces that are exposed to this gas. Alternatively, thrust can be generated by accelerating charged particles using electromagnetic fields. One can even generate thrust from gradients in the gravitational field.
Breakthroughs in advanced propulsion systems can significantly improve space mission performance well beyond what can be achieved with today’s conventional systems. The main benefits would include improvements in overall mission delta-v manoeuvre capability and the enabling of entirely new missions or space transportation architectures. To further explore our solar system, faster trip times, substantial increase in payload mass delivery, or a large reduction in overall spacecraft mass/size is needed.
The activities within the Advanced Concepts Team over the years have covered all of these aspects. By following the latest scientific advancements, we aim to provide a first look on future operational capabilities.
Magnetohydrodynamic flow control during reentry01 Nov 2015 During the reentry phase, spacecraft experiences large aerodynamic and thermal loads that constraint the vehicle design. Previous studies have shown that magnetohydrodynamic flow control is capable of reducing these thermal loads. In a short study, existing literature on this concept was combined to estimate the impact on the re-entry trajectory.
Advanced Plasma Diagnostics01 Jul 2014
Advanced Plasma Diagnostics01 Jul 2014 Electric propulsion (EP) produces thrust by ionizing and accelerating atoms to very high velocities. Although the total mass flow of the ejected ions is far lower than what is obtained in chemical propulsion, the total thrust is the product of mass flow and exit velocity. EP thrusters that can deliver up to several Newton of thrust due to their ...
Nuclear Fusion Propulsion Systems30 May 2013
Nuclear Fusion Propulsion Systems30 May 2013 The exploration of the solar system requires advanced propulsion techniques capable of specific impulse above 104s and specific power in the range 1-10kW/kg. Fusion is the most interesting option to meet these requirements.
Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Thrusters22 Apr 2013
Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Thrusters22 Apr 2013 Tuning of the grid spacing in inertial electrostatic confinement devices can produce jets. This project explores the extraction of such jets for high performance space propulsion.
Helicon Radiofrequency Plasma Thrusters18 Apr 2013
Helicon Radiofrequency Plasma Thrusters18 Apr 2013 The Helicon source is a device capable of high-efficiency plasma generation. High-density plasma is produced by the use of a helical radio frequency antenna to ionise neutral gas (e.g. argon, krypton, xenon, helium or hydrogen) in a tube closed at one end. The helical antenna excites the gas to dissociate electrons and ...
Burn criteria for generic fusion reactors in space02 Dec 2012 In space, nuclear fusion reactors would face different issues than on Earth. For instance, mass, reliability and overall efficiency become far more crucial. Significant differences in the choice of materials, subsystems, and working principles of the fusion reactor are expected.
Kinetic Modelling of Collisional De-excitation01 Jun 2012 Many advanced propulsion concepts are based on rarefied plasmas, e.g. Applied-Field Magneto-Plasma-Dynamic (AFMPD) thrusters, Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Probes (M2P2), and Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) thrusters. This project aims for identifying validity limits of collision-radiative models for such plasmas.
Probabilistic Modelling of Radiation Processes01 Jul 2011 The post analysis of the FIRE-II mission flown in 1965 showed that radiative heating contributed to 90% of the total heat-flux. Since there is no simple rule or equation which allows a quick estimation of that quantity it is essential to understand and model radiation processes as accurate as possible in order to design TPS material accordingly...
Electrodynamic Tether01 Nov 2008
Electrodynamic Tether01 Nov 2008 An alternative novel mission concept has been recently conceived based on conductive tethers providing both power and propulsion at Jupiter to allow a cost-effective tour of the Jovian system including rendezvous with the moons Io and Europa.
Advanced Injectors for Chemical Rockets Inspired by Ink-jet Printing Technology01 Jun 2006 Injection is a key process realising feedback couplings of the combustion chamber with other engine components. In collaboration with European academia, the ACT conducted a study on the feasibility of the injectors for chemical propulsion systems.