Improving plasma actuator performance at low pressure, and an analysis of the pointing capabilities of cubesats using plasmonic force propulsion (PFP) thrusters

by Paul Daniel Friz

Institution: Missouri University of Science and Technology
Year: 2014
Record ID: 2027606
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10355/43388


"This thesis details the work done on two unrelated projects, plasma actuators, an aerodynamic flow control device, and Plasmonic Force Propulsion (PFP) thrusters, a space propulsion system for small satellites. The first half of the thesis is a paper published in the International Journal of Flow Control on plasma actuators. In this paper the thrust and power consumption of plasma actuators with varying geometries was studied at varying pressure. It was found that actuators with longer buried electrodes produce the most thrust over all and that they substantially improved thrust at low pressure. In particular actuators with 75 mm buried electrodes produced 26% more thrust overall and 34% more thrust at low pressure than the standard 15 mm design. The second half details work done modeling small satellite attitude and reaction control systems in order to compare the use of Plasmonic Force Propulsion thrusters with other state of the art reaction control systems. The model uses bang bang control algorithms and assumes the worst case scenario solar radiation pressure is the only disturbing force. It was found that the estimated 50-500 nN of thrust produced by PFP thrusters would allow the spacecraft which use them extremely high pointing and positioning accuracies (<10⁹ degrees and 3 pm). PFP thrusters still face many developmental challenges such as increasing specific impulse which require more research, however, they have great potential to be an enabling technology for future NASA missions such as the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, and The Stellar Imager." – Abstract, page iv.