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Diagnostics for electric propulsion systems

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Electric propulsion by various kinds of thrusters (plasma, ion,…) is a rapidly growing technology for engines of satellites and space probes for near-Earth and space exploration. In order to optimize such propulsion systems in different regimes (from a few µN to several N thrust) the availability of suitable and proper diagnostics is of fundamental importance. The diagnostics include, for example, electric, spectroscopic, calorimetric and momentum measurements during the development stage in the lab as well as during operation under space conditions.

This topical issue reviews the design and operating experience of related diagnostics and control systems from a number of different thruster concepts and missions. Topics such as hardware and software choices, links to spacecraft breadboard systems, communication and signal processing and resulting performance are covered as well.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to experimental and diagnostic aspects, measurements, methods, and fields of applications, such as:

•    thrust measurements
•    plasma probe diagnostics
•    electric thruster optimization
•    non-conventional methods
•    modelling and simulation for diagnostics

The Lead guest editor

Holger Kersten,

  1. This review deals with the selection of the electric propulsion system (EPS) for the internationally developed and designed, primary nuclear-electric space tug International Nuclear Power and Propulsion System...

    Authors: Frank Jansen, Tommaso Andreussi, Giovanni Cesarretti, Manfred Ehresmann, Julia Grill, Georg Herdrich, Ikkoh Funaki, Nathalie Girard, Jan Thimo Grundmann, David Krejci, Hans Leiter, Frederic Masson, Volker Maiwald, Tommaso Misuri, Stephane Oriol, Antonio Piragino…
    Citation: EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2023 10:10
  2. Diagnostics with force probes in plumes of electric propulsion systems for spacecraft (thrusters) are presented. This contribution focuses on showing example measurements with force probes for the most common ...

    Authors: Alexander Spethmann, Thomas Trottenberg, Holger Kersten, Franz Georg Hey, Lou Grimaud, Stéphane Mazouffre, Daniel Bock and Martin Tajmar
    Citation: EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2022 9:4
  3. Methods based on laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy are widely used for spatially resolved non-intrusive diagnostics of atomic or molecular densities and velocity distributions in plasma applications. Wit...

    Authors: Christoph Eichhorn, Lukas Pietzonka, Frank Scholze, Carsten Bundesmann, Daniel Spemann, Horst Neumann and Hans J. Leiter
    Citation: EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2022 9:2
  4. The lifetime of electric propulsion (EP) thrusters depends particularly on the erosion characteristics of operation relevant components, for instance, the grid hole erosion of gridded ion thrusters or the chan...

    Authors: Carsten Bundesmann, Christoph Eichhorn, Horst Neumann, Frank Scholze, Daniel Spemann, Michael Tartz, Hans J. Leiter, Roman Y. Gnizdor and Fabrizio Scortecci
    Citation: EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2022 9:1
  5. Electric space propulsion thrusters only produce low thrust forces. For the fulfillment of a space mission this implies long thruster runtimes, and this entails long qualification times on ground. For such lon...

    Authors: Andreas Neumann, Jens Simon and Jens Schmidt
    Citation: EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2021 8:17
  6. The plasma diagnostics presented in this article target the plasma surrounding a spacecraft that is created by the electric thruster and its surface modifying effects. The diagnostic package includes a retardi...

    Authors: Thomas Trottenberg, Florian Bansemer, Stephan Böttcher, Davar Feili, Hartmut Henkel, Marcel Hesse, Holger Kersten, Tony Krüger, Jens Laube, Alexey Lazurenko, Daniel Sailer, Björn Schuster, Lars Seimetz, Alexander Spethmann, Stefan Weis and Robert F. Wimmer-Schweingruber
    Citation: EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2021 8:16
  7. We present a non-invasive approach for determining plasma parameters such as electron temperature and density inside a radio-frequency ion thruster (RIT) using optical emission spectroscopy (OES) in conjunctio...

    Authors: Benny T. Nauschütt, Limei Chen, Kristof Holste and Peter J. Klar
    Citation: EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2021 8:13

    The Correction to this article has been published in EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2021 8:18

  8. The emerging “new space” age strengthens the importance of rapid development and qualification procedures of electric engines and their peripheral devices. A key element is the reliable simulation of the thrus...

    Authors: Patrick Dietz, Andreas Reeh, Konstantin Keil, Kristof Holste, Uwe Probst, Peter J. Klar and Chris Volkmar
    Citation: EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 2021 8:10

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