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Electrostatic Plasma Accelerator (EPA)The application of electric propulsion to communications satellites, however, has been limited to the use of hydrazine thrusters with electric heaters for thrust and specific impulse augmentation. These electrothermal thrusters operate at specific impulse levels of approximately 300 s with heater powers of about 500 W. Low power arcjets (1-3 kW) are currently being investigated as a way to increase specific impulse levels to approximately 500 s. Ion propulsion systems can easily produce specific impulses of 3000 s or greater, but have yet to be applied to communications satellites. The reasons most often given for not using ion propulsion systems are their high level of overall complexity, low thrust with long burn times, and the difficulty of integrating the propulsion system into existing commercial spacecraft busses. The Electrostatic Plasma Accelerator (EPA) is a thruster concept which promises specific impulse levels between low power arcjets and those of the ion engine while retaining the relative simplicity of the arcjet. The EPA thruster produces thrust through the electrostatic acceleration of a moderately dense plasma. No accelerating electrodes are used and the specific impulse is a direct function of the applied discharge voltage and the propellant atomic mass.
Document ID
Document Type
Brophy, John R.
(Center for Advanced Space Propulsion Tullahoma, TN United States)
Aston, Graeme
(Center for Advanced Space Propulsion Tullahoma, TN United States)
Date Acquired
August 17, 2013
Publication Date
October 31, 1995
Publication Information
Publication: Center for Advanced Space Propulsion
Subject Category
Plasma Physics
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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