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Lifetime Considerations for Electrospray Thrusters

Plasma & Space Propulsion Laboratory, UCLA Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, 420 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
LISA Microthruster Technology Lead, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Current address: UCLA Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, 420 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Aerospace 2020, 7(8), 108;
Received: 23 June 2020 / Revised: 21 July 2020 / Accepted: 24 July 2020 / Published: 29 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electric Propulsion)
Ionic liquid electrospray thrusters are capable of producing microNewton precision thrust at a high thrust–power ratio but have yet to demonstrate lifetimes that are suitable for most missions. Accumulation of propellant on the extractor and accelerator grids is thought to be the most significant life-limiting mechanism. In this study, we developed a life model to examine the effects of design features, operating conditions, and emission properties on the porous accelerator grid saturation time of a thruster operating in droplet emission mode. Characterizing a range of geometries and operating conditions revealed that modifying grid aperture radius and grid spacing by 3–7% can significantly improve thruster lifetime by 200–400%, though a need for explicit mass flux measurement was highlighted. Tolerance analysis showed that misalignment can result in 20–50% lifetime reduction. In addition, examining the impact of electron backstreaming showed that increasing aperture radius produces a significant increase in backstreaming current compared to changing grid spacing. A study of accelerator grid bias voltages revealed that applying a reasonably strong accelerator grid potential (in the order of a kV) can minimize backstreaming current to negligible levels for a range of geometries. View Full-Text
Keywords: electrospray; lifetime; electric propulsion; thrusters; overspray electrospray; lifetime; electric propulsion; thrusters; overspray
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MDPI and ACS Style

Thuppul, A.; Wright, P.L.; Collins, A.L.; Ziemer, J.K.; Wirz, R.E. Lifetime Considerations for Electrospray Thrusters. Aerospace 2020, 7, 108.

AMA Style

Thuppul A, Wright PL, Collins AL, Ziemer JK, Wirz RE. Lifetime Considerations for Electrospray Thrusters. Aerospace. 2020; 7(8):108.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Thuppul, Anirudh, Peter L. Wright, Adam L. Collins, John K. Ziemer, and Richard E. Wirz. 2020. "Lifetime Considerations for Electrospray Thrusters" Aerospace 7, no. 8: 108.

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