ENPULSION NANO and MICRO propulsion systems: development and testing – 11 August 2021

Authors: David Krejci, Lou Grimaud, Tony Schönherr, Valentin Hugonnaud, Alexander Reissner and Bernhard Seifert

Published On: August 9-11, 2021

Event: AIAA Propulsion and Energy 2021 Forum, AIAA 2021-3420


View Video Presentation: https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2021-3420.vid

The ENPULSION NANO and the ENPULSION MICRO are both based on liquid metal Field Emission Electric Propulsion (FEEP) principle, producing thrust by electrostatically accelerating previously extracted and ionized propellant to high exhaust velocity. The Indium FEEP emitter is based on passive propellant supply from the integrated propellant reservoir via capillary forces to the porous metal ion emitter featuring 28 needle-shaped porous emitters, arranged in a crown-like geometry. The NANO thruster features one such emitter, whereas the MICRO features 4 emitter crowns operated in parallel to increase thrust. Electrostatic pull between the liquified Indium and the counter electrode surrounding the emitter crown establishes a so-called Taylor cone on the tips of the needle emitters, from who’s apex the ion emission takes place. This principle is based on long heritage of Liquid metal ion sources (LMIS) and sources for mass spectroscopy used for spaceflight, and has gained significant interest as propulsion system for commercial smallsat missions. This work provides an overview of disclosable in-flight experience and reports on testing characterization progress of both propulsion systems.

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