Tag: propulsion

China Claims Testing of EmDrive in Space

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EmDrive (Credit: Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.)

EmDrive (Credit: Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.)

China claims it is testing an EmDrive propulsion system in space.

Dr. Chen Yue, Director of Commercial Satellite Technology for the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) announced on December 10, 2016 that not only has China successfully tested EmDrives technology in its laboratories, but that a proof-of-concept is currently undergoing zero-g testing in orbit (according to the International Business Times, this test is taking place on the Tiangong 2 space station).

Unlike traditional engines (such as combustion and ion engines) that expel mass from the system to produce thrust, reactionless engines like the EmDrive use only electricity to generate movement. In the EmDrive, first proposed by Roger Shawyer, the microwave cavity is an asymmetric container, such as a truncated cone, with one end much larger than the other. At the narrower end, a source of electromagnetic energy (such as a magnetron) bombards the cavity with microwaves. These waves are contained and bounce off the cavity’s walls, creating electromagnetic resonance. Due to the imbalanced resonance from the complex geometry of a truncated cone, the electromagnetic field in the EmDrive becomes directionally dependent (anisotropic). In this case, the anisotropic electromagnetic field ‘pushes’ the EmDrive away from the direction of the cavity’s larger area end.

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NASA Peer-reviewed Paper on Controversial EM Drive Published

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EmDrive (Credit: Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.)

EmDrive (Credit: Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.)

A long-awaited, peer-reviewed scientific paper has been published that indicates the controversial EM (Electromagnetic) Drive appears to work even though it apparently violates one of the laws of motion.

In case you’ve missed the hype, the EM Drive, or Electromagnetic Drive, is a propulsion system first proposed by British inventor Roger Shawyer back in 1999.

Instead of using heavy, inefficient rocket fuel, it bounces microwaves back and forth inside a cone-shaped metal cavity to generate thrust.

According to Shawyer’s calculations, the EM Drive could be so efficient that it could power us to Mars in just 70 days.

But, there’s a not-small problem with the system. It defies Newton’s third law, which states that everything must have an equal and opposite reaction….

Yet in test after test it continues to work. Last year, NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratory team got their hands on an EM Drive to try to figure out once and for all what was going on.

The new peer-reviewed paper is titled “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum“, and has been published online as an open access ‘article in advance’ in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)’s Journal of Propulsion and Power. It’ll appear in the December print edition.

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NASA Microthrusters Achieve Success on ESA’s LISA Pathfinder

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An artist's concept of the European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board. (Credit: ESA)

An artist’s concept of the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board. (Credit: ESA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A next-generation technology demonstration mission has just passed a big milestone.

The Space Technology 7 Disturbance Reduction System (ST7-DRS) is a system of thrusters, advanced avionics and software managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. It has been flying on the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, which launched from Kourou, French Guiana on Dec. 3, 2015 GMT (Dec. 2 PST). As of Oct. 17, the system had logged roughly 1,400 hours of in-flight operations and met 100 percent of its mission goals.

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SSI Holds Breakthrough Propulsion Workshop

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Video Caption: Space Studies Institute President Gary C Hudson’s short intro session on the first morning of the Breakthrough Propulsion Workshop that took place in Estes Park, Colorado September 20th-23rd 2016.

EM Drives, The Mach Effect, testing practices and requirements of controversial scientific engineering were just a few of the topics presented and debated at this very special gathering of theoretical and experimental physicists and engineers who work on the cutting edge.

This short video gives an introduction to SSI’s involvement in the Mach Effect research following a brief explanation of the goals of The Space Studies Institute.

Over time, more videos and documentation from the workshop will be released… stay tuned!

UK Space Agency Invests in National Propulsion Test Facility

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UK_space_agencyFARNSBOROUGH, UK (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency is investing £4.12m in a National Propulsion Test Facility, giving the UK a new facility for space technology testing. The facility will allow UK companies and academia to test and develop space propulsion engines. The planned facility will be based at Westcott in Buckinghamshire, with its strong history of rocketry research for defence and space development, building on existing facilities.

The UK Space Agency investment will add new capabilities for the UK space sector. Government funding will:

  • Create a new vacuum facility at the Westcott propulsion test site. When used together with the existing industry owned rocket firing test cells, this will allow the simulation of high altitude testing of thrusters up to 2kN.
  • Upgrade an existing industry owned test chamber to improve capabilities in the 25N thrust range.
  • Open the facilities, alongside a smaller 1N thruster test chamber at the site, for the community to use. The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), through its RAL Space facility will act as an independent broker for facility access. The European Space Agency (ESA) will be advising and overseeing the initial detailed design phase before a review in the autumn to move to full implementation.

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NIAC Focus: Directed Energy for Interstellar Flight

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Artist rendering of the Directed Energy Interstellar Study. (Credit: P. Lubin)

Artist rendering of the Directed Energy Interstellar Study. (Credit: P. Lubin)

Directed Energy Interstellar Study
NASA Innovative Advance Concepts Phase II Award

Philip Lubin
University of California, Santa Barbara

We propose to expand our investigations started in our NIAC Phase I of using directed energy to allow the achievement of relativistic flight to pave the way to the first interstellar missions. All of the current conventional propulsion systems are incapable of reaching the high speeds necessary to enable interstellar flight. Directed energy offers a path forward that, while difficult, is feasible. It is not an easy path and it does have many milestones to cross in order to get to the point of achieving the speeds needed.

Along the roadmap we propose are important and useful “waypoints” that both allow testing and feed back to the larger design but are also useful for many applications. The consequences of this program are truly transformative not only for achieving relativistic flight for small probes but also for larger spacecraft at lower speeds suitable for rapid interplanetary travel.

The Phase II work will consist of refining our roadmap and building and testing a small phased array prototype to test many of the concepts developed in the Phase I. We will also further our work on the wafer scale spacecraft design including work on the critical integrated laser communications system. We will also explore and test the inverse mode of using the array for reception which is critical to receiving the laser communications from the spacecraft.

JAXA Outlines Plans for H3 Launch Vehicle

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Artist's conception of H3 rocket. (Credit: JAXA)

Artist’s conception of H3 rocket. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The H3 Launch Vehicle is a liquid propellant launch vehicle currently under development. This is the first full-scale development of the 21st century. The aim of this development is to respond to launch demands from global customers. Based on our operation experience and the reliability of launch vehicles, we will further improve the payload launch capability and reduce the launch price to triumph among international competition in the commercial launch market. We are developing the H3 with the goal of a maiden launch in Japan Fiscal Year 2020 as a mainstay launch vehicle.
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NIAC Focus: Plasmonic Force Propulsion

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Schematic of proposed plasmonic force propulsion concept. (Credit: J. Rovey)

Schematic of proposed plasmonic force propulsion concept. (Credit: J. Rovey)

Experimental Demonstration and System Analysis for Plasmonic Force Propulsion
NASA Innovative Advance Concepts Phase II Award

Joshua Rovey
University of Missouri

One of NASA’s strategic goals is expanding scientific understanding of the Earth and the universe. NASA envisions a broad class of scientific missions where extremely fine pointing and positioning of spacecraft is required, such as a single Earth observing spacecraft, deployable x-ray telescopes, exoplanet observatories, and constellations of spacecraft for Earth and deep space observations.

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NASA Selects Propulsion SBIRs & STTRs

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NASA LOGOAs I was looking through NASA’s recent small business selection announcement for propulsion-related projects, I have found that the space agency has selected 29 Small Business Innovation Research and 8 Small Business Technology Transfer proposals for funding.

The proposals cover a wide range of areas, including in-space propulsion for CubeSats to technologies for new launch vehicles. Several proposals are also focused on in-space propellant depots.

A list of the selected projects with links to the proposals follows.

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NASA’s NIAC Program Funded Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration

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In 2015, the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program selected University of California, Santa Barbara Professor Philip Lubin’s study on directed energy propulsion for exploring other worlds.

NASA is pleased to hear that Professor Lubin has received external funding to continue the work started in his NIAC study. When the study’s final report has been cleared for 508 compliance, it will be posted here.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program focuses research on futuristic but technically credible concepts that could one day “change the possible” in aerospace.

DEEP IN Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration

Philip Lubin
University of California

Project Description

We propose a system that will allow us to take a significant step towards interstellar exploration using directed energy propulsion combined with wafer scale spacecraft. One of NASA’s goals and one of humanity’s grand challenges is to explore other planetary systems by remote sensing, sending probes, and eventually life to explore. This is a long standing and difficult to implement dream. The technological challenges are formidable. A step in this direction is to send small probes that will supplement the current long range remote sensing done by orbital telescopes.

Orbital ATK Awarded NASA Contract for Advanced Space Propulsion

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orbital_ATK_logoDULLES, Va., 21 September 2015 (Orbital ATK PR) — Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, announced today it has been awarded a Research and Technologies for Aerospace Propulsion Systems 2 (RTAPS2) contract by NASA to provide advanced space propulsion system technologies. NASA developed the RTAPS2 contract as part of aerospace research activities at the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
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NASA Tech: Rocket Fuel Pump Tests Pave Way for 3-D Printed Engine

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Engineers prepare a 3-D printed turbopump for a test at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The turbopump was tested at full power, pumping 1,200 gallons of liquid hydrogen per minute, enough to power an upper stage rocket engine capable of generating 35,000 pounds of thrust. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/David Olive)

Engineers prepare a 3-D printed turbopump for a test at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The turbopump was tested at full power, pumping 1,200 gallons of liquid hydrogen per minute, enough to power an upper stage rocket engine capable of generating 35,000 pounds of thrust. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/David Olive)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — One of the most complex, 3-D printed rocket engine parts ever made, a turbopump, got its “heartbeat” racing at more than 90,000 revolutions per minute (rpms) during a successful series of tests with liquid hydrogen propellant at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. These tests along with manufacturing and testing of injectors and other rocket engine parts are paving the way for advancements in 3-D printing of complex rocket engines and more efficient production of future spacecraft.

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ESA Fires First 3D Printed Platinum Combustion Chamber and Nozzle

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Hot firing of world's first 3D-printed platinum thruster chamber. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

Hot firing of world’s first 3D-printed platinum thruster chamber. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The world’s first spacecraft thruster with a platinum combustion chamber and nozzle made by 3D printing has passed its baptism of fire with a series of firings lasting more than an hour and 618 ignitions.

“This is a world first,” explains Steffen Beyer of Airbus Defence & Space, managing the project. “The firings included a single burn of 32 minutes, during which a maximum throat temperature of 1253°C was attained.

“It demonstrates that performance comparable to a conventional thruster can be obtained through 3D printing.”

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Busek Delivers Game Changing CubeSat Thrusters to NASA

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100µN electrospray thruster system. (Credit: Busek Co.)

100µN electrospray thruster system. (Credit: Busek Co.)

NATICK, MA (Busek PR) — Satellite propulsion firm Busek Co. Inc. confirms the shipment of its first miniature electrospray small satellite thrusters to NASA.

The modular, 100 micronewton-class thrusters enable new, highly efficient CubeSat maneuvers as well as fine position control for larger spacecraft.

The units were designed and manufactured by Busek for NASA’s Game Changing Development Program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

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Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics Selected for 2 SBIR Phase I Contracts

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pioneer_astronautics_logoNASA has selected Bob Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics for two small business awards to fund the development of a system to extract water and other volatiles from asteroids and a new rocket engine for spacecraft.

“The Carbonaceous Asteroid Volatile Recovery (CAVoR) system extracts water and volatile organic compounds for propellant production, life support consumables, and manufacturing from in-situ resources in support of advanced space exploration,” according to the proposal. “The CAVoR thermally extracts ice and water bound to clays minerals, which is then combined with small amounts of oxygen to gasify organic matter contained in carbonaceous chondrite asteroids.

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