We designed, built and patented the first known massed array electronic propulsion ASIC chip system known as the Microthruster. It makes things fly on a beam of energy. We are credited by the U.S. Government with developing the system for near region optimization, for more efficient flights, of the effect by proximity stimulation and for high density weight reduction via beamed energy transduction. At first, a rudimentary system could only lift a live mouse, but a massed array system, with region effect optimization, and off-boarded power, provided much higher payload potential. We received the first core patent on the technology and then donated that patent to the public for use in non-commercial community interest programs:
In one of the videos of a test system, an over-sized working model of a cell is lifting itself on a beam of electrical energy. Novel to this test is the fact that the cell is asymmetrical in load. Notice the triangle plate and mast on one corner, which makes the payload un-even, yet the craft still maintains even flight relative to the Earth’s center. The black cords on the corners of the cell are to keep it tied to the ground. If it was not tied down, and using the long-range power supply we developed, it would rise upwards and never stop, as long as it had a power source:
Hall effect thruster: Technical background
Our project goal is to optimize and hybridize the solution for atmospheric-to-space transport and atmospheric transport using effect-envelope enhancement.
2 kW Hall thruster in operation as part of the Hall Thruster Experiment at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
HistoryHall thrusters were studied independently in the United States and the Soviet Union. They were first described publicly in the US in the early 1960s. However, the Hall thruster was first developed into an efficient propulsion device in the Soviet Union. In the US, scientists focused instead on developing gridded ion thrusters. Two types of Hall thrusters were developed in the Soviet Union:
- thrusters with wide acceleration zone, SPT (Russian: СПД, стационарный плазменный двигатель; English: SPT,Stationary Plasma Thruster) at Design Bureau Fakel
- thrusters with narrow acceleration zone, DAS (Russian: ДАС, двигатель с анодным слоем; English: TAL, Thruster with Anode Layer), at the Central Research Institute for Machine Building (TsNIIMASH).
OperationThe essential working principle of the Hall thruster is that it uses an electrostatic potential to accelerate ions up to high speeds. In a Hall thruster the attractive negative charge is provided by an electron plasma at the open end of the thruster instead of a grid. A radial magnetic field of a hundred gauss (about 100–300 G, 0.01–0.03 T) is used to confine the electrons, where the combination of the radial magnetic field and axial electric field cause the electrons to drift azimuthally, forming the Hall current from which the device gets its name.
Cylindrical Hall thrustersAlthough conventional (annular) Hall thrusters are efficient in the kilowatt power regime, they become inefficient when scaled to small sizes. This is due to the difficulties associated with holding the performance scaling parameters constant while decreasing the channel size and increasing the applied magnetic field strength. This led to the design of the cylindrical Hall Thruster. The cylindrical Hall thruster can be more readily scaled to smaller sizes due to its nonconventional discharge-chamber geometry and associated magnetic field profile. The cylindrical Hall thruster more readily lends itself to miniaturization and low-power operation than a conventional (annular) Hall thruster. The primary reason for cylindrical Hall thrusters is that it is difficult to achieve a regular Hall thruster that operates over a broad envelope from ~1 kW down to ~100 W while maintaining an efficiency of 45-55%.
ApplicationsHall thrusters have been flying in space since December 1971 when the Soviets launched an SPT-50 on a Meteor satellite. Over 240 thrusters have flown in space since that time with a 100% success rate. Hall thrusters are now routinely flown on commercial GEO communications satellites where they are used for orbital insertion and stationkeeping. The first Hall thruster to fly on a western satellite was a Russian D-55 built by TsNIIMASH, on the NRO’s STEX spacecraft, launched on October 3, 1998. The solar electric propulsion system of the European Space Agency‘s SMART-1 spacecraft used a Snecma PPS-1350-G Hall thruster. SMART-1 was a technology demonstration mission that orbited the Moon. This use of the PPS-1350-G, starting on September 28, 2003, was the first use of a Hall thruster outside geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO). Unlike most Hall thruster propulsion systems used in commercial applications, the Hall thruster on SMART-1 could be throttled over a range of power, specific impulse, and thrust.
- Discharge power: 0.46–1.19 kW
- Specific impulse: 1,100–1,600 s
- Thrust: 30–70 mN
Evaluating NASA’s Futuristic EM Drive
A group at NASA’s Johnson Space Center has successfully tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive in a vacuum – a major breakthrough for a multi-year international effort comprising several competing research teams. Thrust measurements of the EM Drive defy classical physics’ expectations that such a closed (microwave) cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum. EM Drive: Last summer, NASA Eagleworks – an advanced propulsion research group led by Dr. Harold “Sonny” White at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) – made waves throughout the scientific and technical communities when the group presented their test results on July 28-30, 2014, at the 50th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Those results related to experimental testing of an EM Drive – a concept that originated around 2001 when a small UK company, Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd (SPR), under Roger J. Shawyer, started a Research and Development (R&D) program. The concept of an EM Drive as put forth by SPR was that electromagnetic microwave cavities might provide for the direct conversion of electrical energy to thrust without the need to expel any propellant. This lack of expulsion of propellant from the drive was met with initial skepticism within the scientific community because this lack of propellant expulsion would leave nothing to balance the change in the spacecraft’s momentum if it were able to accelerate. However, in 2010, Prof. Juan Yang in China began publishing about her research into EM Drive technology, culminating in her 2012 paper reporting higher input power (2.5kW) and tested thrust (720mN) levels of an EM Drive. In 2014, Prof. Yang’s papers reported extensive tests involving internal temperature measurements with embedded thermocouples.
It was reported (in SPR Ltd.’s website) that if the Chinese EM Drive were to be installed in the International Space Station (ISS) and work as reported, it could provide the necessary delta-V (change in velocity needed to perform an on-orbit maneuver) to compensate for the Station’s orbital decay and thus eliminate the requirement of re-boosts from visiting vehicles. Despite these reports, Prof. Yang offered no scientifically-accepted explanation as to how the EM Drive can produce propulsion in space. Dr. White proposed that the EM Drive’s thrust was due to the Quantum Vacuum (the quantum state with the lowest possible energy) behaving like propellant ions behave in a MagnetoHydroDynamics drive (a method electrifying propellant and then directing it with magnetic fields to push a spacecraft in the opposite direction) for spacecraft propulsion. In Dr. White’s model, the propellant ions of the MagnetoHydroDynamics drive are replaced as the fuel source by the virtual particles of the Quantum Vacuum, eliminating the need to carry propellant. This model was also met with criticism in the scientific community because the Quantum Vacuum cannot be ionized and is understood to be “frame-less” – meaning you cannot “push” against it, as required for momentum. The tests reported by Dr. White’s team in July 2014 were not conducted in a vacuum, and none of the tests reported by Prof. Yang in China or Mr. Shawyer in the UK were conducted in a vacuum either. The scientific community met these NASA tests with skepticism and a number of physicists proposed that the measured thrust force in the US, UK, and China tests was more likely due to (external to the EM Drive cavity) natural thermal convection currents arising from microwave heating (internal to the EM Drive cavity). However, Paul March, an engineer at NASA Eagleworks, recently reported in NASASpaceFlight.com’s forum (on a thread now over 500,000 views) that NASA has successfully tested their EM Drive in a hard vacuum – the first time any organization has reported such a successful test. To this end, NASA Eagleworks has now nullified the prevailing hypothesis that thrust measurements were due to thermal convection. A community of enthusiasts, engineers, and scientists on several continents joined forces on the NASASpaceflight.com EM Drive forum to thoroughly examine the experiments and discuss theories of operation of the EM Drive. The quality of forum discussions attracted the attention of EagleWorks team member Paul March at NASA, who has shared testing and background information with the group in order to fill in information gaps and further the dialogue. This synergy between NASASpaceflight.com contributors and NASA has resulted in several contributions to the body of knowledge about the EM Drive. The NASASpaceflight.com group has given consideration to whether the experimental measurements of thrust force were the result of an artifact. Despite considerable effort within the NASASpaceflight.com forum to dismiss the reported thrust as an artifact, the EM Drive results have yet to be falsified. After consistent reports of thrust measurements from EM Drive experiments in the US, UK, and China – at thrust levels several thousand times in excess of a photon rocket, and now under hard vacuum conditions – the question of where the thrust is coming from deserves serious inquiry. Applications: The applications of such a propulsion drive are multi-fold, ranging from low Earth orbit (LEO) operations, to transit missions tothe Moon, Mars, and the outer solar system, to multi-generation spaceships for interstellar travel. Under these application considerations, the closest-to-home potential use of EM Drive technology would be for LEO space stations – such as the International Space Station. In terms of the Station, propellant-less propulsion could amount to significant savings by drastically reducing fuel resupply missions to the Station and eliminate the need for visiting-vehicle re-boost maneuvers. The elimination of these currently necessary re-boost maneuvers would potentially reduce stress on the Station’s structure and allow for a pro-longed operational period for the ISS and future LEO space stations. Likewise, EM drive technology could also be applied to geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites around Earth. For a typical geostationary communications satellite with a 6kW (kilowatt) solar power capacity, replacing the conventional apogee engine, attitude thrusters, and propellant volume with an EM Drive would result in a reduction of the launch mass from 3 tons to 1.3 tons. The satellite would be launched into LEO, where its solar arrays and antennas would be deployed. The EM-drive would then propel the satellite in a spiral trajectory up to GEO in 36 days. Moving out from LEO, Mr. March, from NASA EagleWorks, noted that a spacecraft equipped with EM drive technology could surpass the performance expectations of the WarpStar-I concept vehicle. If such a similar vehicle were equipped with an EM Drive, it could enable travel from the surface of Earth to the surface of the moon within four hours. Such a vehicle would be capable of carrying two to six passengers and luggage and would be able to return to Earth in the same four-hour interval using one load of hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cell-derived electrical power, assuming a 500 to 1,000 Newton/kW efficiency EM Drive system. While the current maximum reported efficiency is close to only 1 Newton/kW (Prof. Yang’s experiments in China), Mr. March noted that such an increase in efficiency is most likely achievable within the next 50 years provided that current EM Drive propulsion conjectures are close to accurate. Far more ambitious applications for the EM Drive were presented by Dr. White and include crewed missions to Mars as well as to the outer planets. Specifically, these two proposed missions (to Mars and the outer planets) would use a 2 MegaWatt Nuclear Electric Propulsion spacecraft equipped with an EM Drive with a thrust/powerInput of 0.4 Newton/kW. With this design, a mission to Mars would result in a 70-day transit from Earth to the red planet, a 90-day stay at Mars, and then another 70-day return transit to Earth.Click Here For larger images of those used in the article*
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- Aerojet (Redmond, WA USA) – Hall Thruster Vendor
- Busek (Natick, MA USA)- Hall Thruster Vendor
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- MIT Space Propulsion Laboratory
- Michigan Tech. Univ. Ion Space Propulsion Laboratory
- Georgia Institute of Technology High-Power Electric Propulsion Laboratory (HPEPL)
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- ESA page on Hall thrusters