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About this book

Franz Georg Hey summarises the development and testing of a micro-Newton thrust balance, as well as the downscaling of a High Efficiency Multistage Plasma Thruster to micro-Newton thrust levels. The balance is tailored to fully characterise thruster candidates for the space based gravitational wave detector LISA. Thus, thrust noise measurements in sub-micro-Newton regime can be performed in the overall LISA bandwidth. The downscaled thruster can be operated down to serval tens of micro-Newton with a comparably high specific impulse.

About the Author

Franz Georg Hey works as mechanical, thermal, propulsion architect and technical lead of the micro‑Newton propulsion laboratory of Europe’s leading air and spacecraft manufacturer. The author is participating on major programmes for future satellite and electric propulsion development. The author’s research is performed in close collaboration with the Dresden University of Technology, the University of Bremen and the DLR Bremen.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

Since the days Tsiolkovsky, Oberth and Goddard started dreaming of space exploration more than a century has passed. Today, the majority of the people are using technologies which are based on space exploration such as satellite television or satellite navigation and the space business plays a very important role in daily life. But there are still a lot of challenging tasks to do and a lot more questions to answer.

Franz Georg Hey

Chapter 2. Electric Propulsion Fundamentals

Electric thrusters use the same principles as chemical rockets to propel spacecraft, however the ejected mass consists basically of charged particles. Furthermore, the acceleration of the propellant particles is not powered by the energy stored in the propellant, but rather by an external power source. This changes the way the parameters of the thruster are calculated.

Franz Georg Hey

Chapter 3. Micro-Newton Thruster Test Facility

In line with the requirements (table 1.3) a micro-Newton thruster test facility has been developed. The facility consists of a vacuum tank, a highly precise thrust balance, a plasma diagnostics setup and all other necessary hardware to perform EP development, testing and characterisation. As introduced in chapter 1, section 1.4, the micro-Newton thruster test facility developed can be used for the complete characterisation of AOCS thruster candidates for future scientific space missions such as LISA.

Franz Georg Hey

Chapter 4. Micro High Efficiency Multistage Plasma Thruster Development

As mentioned in the introduction, Airbus started the development of the micro- Newton HEMPT in 2009 with the goal to demonstrate that the HEMPT technology could be used for highly precise AOCS. Until that time various laboratory μHEMPT had been built and tested.

Franz Georg Hey

Chapter 5. Conclusion and Outlook

In this thesis the development, design and characterisation of a micro-Newton thruster test facility was presented. The facility consists of the required vacuum infrastructure, a highly precise and highly stable micro-Newton thrust balance and a set of plasma diagnostics. Measurement results of real thruster tests that has been performed with the facility has been shown and analysed.

Franz Georg Hey


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