Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Engine Helps Satellites Blast Off With Less Fuel

23.02.2007
Engine lets satellites take more hardware into orbit, reposition more easily

Georgia Tech researchers have developed a new protoype engine that allows satellites to take off with less fuel, opening the door for deep space missions, lower launch costs and more payload in orbit.

The efficient satellite engine uses up to 40 percent less fuel by running on solar power while in space and by fine-tuning exhaust velocity. Satellites using the Georgia Tech engine to blast off can carry more payload thanks to the mass freed up by the smaller amount of fuel needed for the trip into orbit. Or, if engineers wanted to use the reduced fuel load another way, the satellite could be launched more cheaply by using a smaller launch vehicle.

The fuel-efficiency improvements could also give satellites expanded capabilities, such as more maneuverability once in orbit or the ability to serve as a refueling or towing vehicle.

The Georgia Tech project, lead by Dr. Mitchell Walker, an assistant professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, was funded by a grant from the U.S. Air Force. The project team made significant experimental modifications to one of five donated satellite engines from aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney to create the final prototype.

The key to the engine improvements, said Walker, is the ability to optimize the use of available power, very similar to the transmission in a car. A traditional chemical rocket engine (attached to a satellite ready for launch) runs at maximum exhaust velocity until it reaches orbit, i.e. first gear.

The new Georgia Tech engine allows ground control units to adjust the engine’s operating gear based on the immediate propulsive need of the satellite. The engine operates in first gear to maximize acceleration during orbit transfers and then shifts to fifth gear once in the desired orbit. This allows the engine to burn at full capacity only during key moments and conserve fuel.

“You can really tailor the exhaust velocity to what you need from the ground,” Walker said.

The Georgia Tech engine operates with an efficient ion propulsion system. Xenon (a noble gas) atoms are injected into the discharge chamber. The atoms are ionized, (electrons are stripped from their outer shell), which forms xenon ions. The light electrons are constrained by the magnetic field while the heavy ions are accelerated out into space by an electric field, propelling the satellite to high speeds.

Tech’s significant improvement to existing xenon propulsion systems is a new electric and magnetic field design that helps better control the exhaust particles, Walker said. Ground control units can then exercise this control remotely to conserve fuel.

The satellite engine is almost ready for military applications, but may be several years away from commercial use, Walker added.

Related Links
Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering
http://www.ae.gatech.edu/
Dr. Mitchell Walker
http://www.ae.gatech.edu/people/mwalker/
The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the nation's premiere research universities. Ranked eighth among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities, Georgia Tech's 17,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and African-American engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

Megan McRainey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu/news-room/release.php?id=1281

More articles from Process Engineering:

nachricht CeGlaFlex project: wafer-thin, unbreakable and flexible ceramic and glass
25.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

nachricht Additive manufacturing, from macro to nano
11.04.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>