A Study of The Use of Electric Propulsion and Other Advanced Technologies on Small Spacecraft

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S. D. Clark; D. G. Fearn; F. Marchandise (2007), JBIS, 60, 63-71

Refcode: 2007.60.63
Keywords: Small spacecraft, electric propulsion, electric propulsion missions, electric thrusters, solar cells, solar arrays, silicon carbide electronics, lithium-ion batteries, space computers, MEMS technology

This paper considers the various rapidly developing technologies which are contributing to the highly cost-effective missions now possible utilising small spacecraft, defined as vehicles with launch masses of less than 200 kg. Predominant amongst these technologies is power production, from much improved solar cells and solar arrays. This has allowed electric propulsion (EP) systems to become viable for spacecraft in this category. The paper therefore considers initially the application of EP systems to a variety of future missions, the benefits achieved by the use of this technology, and the various thruster types which are suitable for both primary and secondary propulsion. As well as discussing power generation advances in some depth, the advantages offered by the newly emerging SiC power electronics technologies are also considered. Other contributors to the success of small spacecraft are also covered; they include Li-ion batteries, miniature computers, high data rate communica- tions and, in the future, MEMS technologies.

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