Planar Pulsed Plasma Thruster

Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs) use a high energy electrical spark to vaporize and ionize a small amount of material. PPTs have a weight advantage over chemical thruster in that they use a solid fuel and electricity for thrust. As the satellites have become smaller, there is a need for smaller, lighter housekeeping thrusters and those that can produce smaller increments of thrust. Smaller satellites are important in that they can be deployed in larger quantities in an array. The improvement of PPTs by others have focused on circular PPTs of approximately 1” in diameter and suitable for small satellites, but not for the newer micro satellite concepts.

Researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory are presenting a technology geared toward microsats and yet capable for use with slightly larger satellites. This new PPT is capable of being manufactured smaller than present technology and because the electrode spacings are smaller the unit will use smaller, lighter, less expensive power supplies than present technology. The proposed units can be mass produced via PC Board techniques unlike the present technology that is manufactured one at a time. Due to their compact flat construction they can become a part of the satellite's frame. The planned technology has smaller thrust pulses which allow finer control of satellite positioning and power advantages over the current technology, which make it uniquely suited to the proposed micro and nano satellites. The mass production of the proposed units holds opportunities in a variety of ways over the present technology. This potentially successful technology would give unique advantages to Satellite-Service companies and related Telecommunication Companies and when bidding for new satellite contracts.

US 7,302,792   [MORE INFO]

Type of Offer: Licensing

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