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Radio-Frequency Ion Thruster Research and Development at MAI

Name
Obukhov
Surname
Vladimir
Scientific organization
RIAME MAI
Academic degree
PhD
Position
Vice-director
Scientific discipline
Machinery & Energy
Topic
Radio-Frequency Ion Thruster Research and Development at MAI
Abstract
The RIT Laboratory was founded at MAI in 2010. Under the supervision of Prof. H.W. a research team was formed, modern research and laboratory facilities were developed and constructed, and a family of RIT laboratory models was designed and tested during the period of 2010-2014.
Based on the results of such tests, a number of contracts was concluded with industrial enterprises, including the Design Bureau “Fakel”, TsNIIMash, and KBKhA. In 2014 the Laboratory became a completely self-financing one, and since then it has executed over 10 R&D works under the orders of the leading enterprises of the space industry of the Russian Federation and with their participation as the industry partners. During the whole period of the Laboratory existence, the total amount of its R&D works exceeded 100 million rubles. The Laboratory continues its woks successfully. According to available plans, in 2016-2020 the Laboratory will participate in the works within the frames of the Federal Space Program and other purpose-oriented programs.
Keywords
Radio-Frequency Ion Thruster; Ion-Extraction System; Discharge Chamber; Mathematical Model; Power Processing Unit
Summary

The RIT Laboratory was founded at MAI in 2010. The research team of the Laboratory was formed during the period of 2010-2014 under the supervision of Prof. H.W. Loeb – the well known German scientist, who designed radio-frequency ion thrusters (RIT). Currently 6 candidates of sciences and 2 post-graduate students are among the members of this team. The foundation of the Laboratory made it possible to engage in work a team of young specialists, post-graduate students and students. Substantial financial support by the grant allowed creation of the modern research basis, laboratory facilities including. The production technology and testing principles were mastered as applied to the advance type of radio-frequency thrusters that did not have prototypes in the Russian Federation. Mathematical models for the operational processes in the thruster elements were developed, which allowed calculating electrophysical, thermal, and thermomechanical processes. Results of numerical modeling were used as a basis for the design performance of RIT with the power of 0.3-45 kW. The laboratory models were designed and tested.

The interest to the results of activities of the \laboratory was exhibited by the industrial enterprises of space branch just since the first year of its existence. By the end of budgetary financing in 2013 the Laboratory executed 5 research works and 1 development project. Beginning from 2014, the Laboratory functions as a structural department of the Research Institute of Applied Mechanics and Electrodynamics of the Moscow Aviation Institute (RIAME MAI) under the self-financing conditions. During the period of 2014-2015 the Laboratory team members participated in the execution of 10 R&D works.

Along with the RIT development, the Laboratory solved the problems of RIT application and its integration with the spacecraft systems.

The following lines of activities were covered by the Laboratory:

  • Performance study and design optimization for the RIT model with the power of up to 2kW provided with the ion-extraction system made of the carbon-composite materials.
  • Development of high-power RIT and study of its characteristics, design optimization for its primary units and for the RF discharge power supply system.
  • Research, development and test-bench optimization of the low-power radio-frequency ion thrusters.
  • Analytical and experimental study for the physical and technical problems and elaboration of proposals on the development of onboard means for the contactless action on large-sized debris objects for their removal from operational orbits.
  • Definition of design proposals on the complex development of maneuver schemes for multiple removals of space debris objects from the GEO region to the disposal orbit with the use of a service spacecraft and onboard means for contactless impact on uncooperative space objects.
  • Ballistic analysis for the trajectories of emergency crew return from the lunar satellite orbit to the Earth, and development of software for calculating trajectories for transfer to the Moon and libration points of the Earth-Moon system.
  • Investigation for a possibility of using a EP-powered spacecraft for a contactless impact on the low-orbit uncooperative space debris objects for changing their orbit altitude.
  • Investigation and development of numerical methods for modeling the processes of radio wave propagation in the communication radio-channels of deep-space spacecraft with electric propulsions onboard, and analysis of noise immunity of onboard radio systems.
  • Research aimed at the development of several options for a lunar takeoff and landing manned spacecraft and a lunar landing cargo vehicle as a security for lunar missions.
  • Study for the problems of development of ground test complexes for modeling the effects of EP influence on the systems of spacecraft designed for the Solar system exploration.
  • Calculation of nominal trajectories for the primary and reserve launch windows. Analysis of ballistic possibilities to parry nonstandard situations related to the temporal impossibility of standard use for an electric propulsion system (EPS).
  • Development of engineering design procedures and software for the problems of inserting spacecraft with apogee EPS into the GEO.
  • Development of mathematical models and software; mathematical modeling for the a spacecraft insertion into the GEO with the use of AEPS, test studies for the AEPS influence on different spacecraft parts, elaboration of recommendations on minimizing the AEPS effect on various parts of spacecraft being a part of the “Yenisey-A1” space complex.
  • Development of methods and software to optimize trajectories of SC with EPS to the planets of earth group and asteroids.
  • Designing of radio-frequency ion thrusters of new generation on the basis of analytical and test studies, and their testing.
  • Elaboration of proposals on the design and engineering appearance aspects of the service spacecraft and input data for formulating technical requirements for a project on the development of space complex as related to an onboard cruise compensating EPS and onboard system for the injection of ion beam as a means for a contactless impact on the objects of space debris as applied to the space platforms designed by the Reshetnev Company “Information Satellite Systems”.
  • Development of technical requirements to the design characteristics and elaboration of recommendations on solving the problems of EPS development for a non-expendable lunar tug on the basis of comparative analysis for various EP types.
  • Comparative analysis for the efficiency of transport operations in space on the basis of application of power supply and propulsion complexes comprising solar and nuclear power plants.
  • Comparative design analysis for various options of inhabited lunar basis and substantiation for the stages of its construction.
  • The grant of the President of the Russian Federation in support of the activities of the leading scientific schools of the Russian Federation HSh-143.2012.8 “Fundamental studies for the physical processes in electric propulsion thrusters of next generation as applied to space missions in the near and deep space”.
  • The grant of the President of the Russian Federation in support of the activities of the leading scientific schools of the Russian Federation HSh-895.2014.8 “Fundamental studies for the physical processes in electric propulsion thrusters of next generation as applied to space missions in the near and deep space”.

Research and development activities were executed under the contracts with the enterprises of the rocket-and-space industry: Keldysh Research Center, TSNIIMASH, Lavochkin Research and Production Association, Experimental Design Bureau “Fakel”, KBKhA, Reshetnev Company “Information Satellite Systems”.

During the whole period of the Laboratory existence, the total amount of its R&D works exceeded 100 million rubles. The Laboratory continues its woks successfully. According to available plans, in 2016-2020 the Laboratory will participate in the works within the frames of the Federal Space Program of the Russian Federation and other purpose-oriented programs.