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Ionic electrospray thruster

Ionic electrospray thruster is one of the mainstream electrospray propulsion devices which uses ionic liquid as propellant. Ionic electrospray thrusters are able to accelerate their exhaust to speeds between 10 and 30 km/s (1,000–3,000 s specific impulse). High-power models have demonstrated up to 100μN in the laboratory.

The study of ionic electrospray thruster based on the principle of electrospray operation. the typical structure of the ionic electrospray thruster mainly consists of the emitter, substrate and extractor grid, where the emitter is processed from the porous materials (porous glass, ceramic, metal, etc.).

Structure of ionic electrospray thruster

In thruster operation, an alternate high-voltage signal is applied to both the emitter and extractor. The ionic liquid penetrating to the tips of the emitter with the generation of liquid Taylor cones under the action of strong electric field and then accelerates to generate thrust, the supply of propellant can be self-sustaining under the capillary action. the ionic liquid thruster can realize different operating modes of droplet state and ion state under different structural design and field strength conditions.

Principle of the Ionic electrospray thruster

In our lab, we have developed the ionic electrospray thruster with linear porous wedge electrospray emitters. The thruster uses a duty cycle adjustment method to achieve a balance of positive and negative charges, which has the advantage of thrust stability without any accelerated voltage change.

In October 2021, the 50W ionic electrospray propulsion system developed by the laboratory have gone into space with SSS-1 satellite launched from the China Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre mounted on the Long March 2D rocket. As of June 2022, ILT-50 has completed in-orbit ignition tests and achieved a micro-thrust measurement mission via the momentum wheel. The thruster will be followed by an off-orbit mission at the end of the satellite’s life

50W ionic electrospray propulsion system

50W ionic electrospray propulsion system

(Lastly Updated in September, 2022)

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