The successful operation of a satellite requires more than just a propulsion system to send a spacecraft into the orbit. After reaching the final orbit and releasing the satellite, a directional variable thrust generation is necessary to actively stabilize the altitude and orbit of the satellite via small corrective maneuvres.
Modern chemical space propulsion systems reach their conceptual limits because of constantly increasing requirements like durability (extended flight times), higher beam velocity, weight reduction (greater payload capacity) or smaller thrust bits (increased positional accuracy). In this respect, RF ion thrusters offer a realistic alternative to chemical based propulsion systems. Although they are not appropriate for launchers – because of their low thrust levels and their inherent disadvantage, namely only working in vacuum-like environments – they feature very high propellant efficiency and precise thrust throttling abilities. This turns them into an attractive propulsive system for attitude and orbit control.
While the research at University of Giessen predominantly focuses on scientific studies of RF ion thrusters, THM mainly takes modern systems engineering into account. To improve adjustments of individual components in reciprocity, leading to an optimized system, precise measurement and control electronics are necessary. As a collaboration partner, THM – with its engineering expertise – considers itself an essential link between university and industry. Based on its application-specific research, THM is also involved in development and optimization processes for the overall thruster concept.