Scientists have developed a miniature satellites on plasma engines




It is possible that in a few years to send a deep and unexplored space small satellites could be 10 000 times cheaper. It was on such a deployment scenario events engineers say University of Michigan, advancing to kraudfandingovom service KickStarter its new development called CAT (CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster).

CAT is a plasma engine, which can straighten miniature satellites by standard CubeSat, far beyond the orbit of the Earth.

Until now, similar satellites can only rotate in an orbit around Earth. At the same time, in order to deliver bulky satellites into orbit, needed many boosters. In the foreseeable future, thanks to the engine CAT miniature satellites could hold not only in Earth orbit, but to pursue the asteroid belt or the search for water on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn.


Now a team of scientists working to develop just such a satellite weighing 5 kg, which is equipped with a plasma thruster CAT.

The principle of operation of the plasma CAT engine is identical to the normal work of the rocket. During operation of the missile produces thrust combustion and expansion of the gases, while plasma CAT engine produces thrust by the expansion of the plasma stream, preheated to a temperature of more than 350 000 degrees Celsius. Plasma – partially or fully ionized gas, which for propulsion can be overclocked up to a certain speed. Created by the engine power will be small (measured millinyutonami), but quite effective. The engine can operate for a long period, accelerating faster spacecraft typical rockets.
How does the engine CAT?

Propellants withdrawn from the storage container to the discharge chamber, which contains and distributes gas plasma. Gas into a plasma by means of a special radiofrequency antenna which surrounds the chamber and produces an electromagnetic wave, known as helicon. Then, the plasma comes from the chamber to the outside, and its management is carried out by the magnetic field generated by two powerful magnets. When the plasma leaves the CAT, are formed equal and opposite forces that cause the satellite to move in the opposite direction. Unlike conventional missiles as fuel for CAT can be any substance, including a liquid metal and water vapor.

Двигатель CAT

Engine CAT consists of avionics, power systems, fuel tank, a magnetic nozzle, discharge chamber and solar panels.

газоразрядная камера

Plasma engines used on satellites for decades, but due to the large size and weight of 10 kg they were only equipped with large satellites. Engineers, University of Michigan CAT engine made the most suitable for the satellites for standard CubeSat. Engine power system weighs less than 0.5 kg. Most components of the engine have been established and tested separately. The expected life of the engine is more than 20,000 hours of operation.

Dimensions miniature 3U CubeSat satellites are 30 x 10 x 10 cm, weight – about 5 kg. The life cycle of a satellite outside of the Earth is 10 years (battery life).

золотая пластина

For the further development of the project, developers need only 200 thousand dollars. To investors who donate more than 10,000 dollars, scientists do not remain in debt and promise to engrave their name or a message on a gold plate attached to the space satellite. Recall that these gold plates mounted on board the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.

The development team with support from NASA and Google hopes to launch the first satellite is already in the 2014-2015 year.

Link to kickstarter.

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Tags: Google , NASA , plasma engines , satellites .

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