SUSTAINABILITY IN AN AGE OF SPACE TRASH: ADAPTING ION THRUSTERS FOR USE ON CUBESATS

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

With the advent of commercial space launches for satellites, orbital space near earth is increasingly crowded. An estimated half million objects are being tracked by ground-based sensors. These objects include both operational and defunct satellites, discarded rocket stages from previous launches, and debris from former spacecraft. Simultaneously, small satellites, e.g., cubesats, have the potential to make basic space infrastructure such as communications and weather tracking far more accessible to institutions worldwide. Cubesats are small satellites composed of one or more modular units. With the number of objects, including cubesats, in orbit increasing, some way to address satellites at end-of-life is needed. End-of-life for satellites can involve moving the object to a so-called graveyard orbit or to de-orbit down towards earth to be incinerated in the atmosphere upon re-entry. This paper compares two methods for providing propulsion of cubesats at end-of-life, direct current electron bombardment (DC) and radiofrequency (RF) ion thrusters. These two types of ion thrusters are compared for both impact on spacecraft lifespan and on Δv or change in velocity delivered to a spacecraft. A three unit cubesat was modeled using CAD software Solidworks and exit velocity of plasma generated was modeled using ANSYS Fluent 2019 software. A 12% increase in Δv was calculated for the modeled RF as compared to the DC electron bombardment ion thruster and most importantly the Δv exceeded orbital velocity. This finding implies that RF ion thrusters can effectively de-orbit small cubesats allowing incineration upon reentry to earth’s atmosphere as an end-of-life option.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication27th Design for Manufacturing and the Life Cycle Conference (DFMLC)
PublisherAmerican Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
ISBN (Electronic)9780791886250
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022
EventASME 2022 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, IDETC-CIE 2022 - St. Louis, United States
Duration: Aug 14 2022Aug 17 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ASME Design Engineering Technical Conference
Volume5

Conference

ConferenceASME 2022 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, IDETC-CIE 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySt. Louis
Period8/14/228/17/22

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 by ASME.

Keywords

  • Cubesats
  • ion thrusters
  • space trash
  • sustainability

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'SUSTAINABILITY IN AN AGE OF SPACE TRASH: ADAPTING ION THRUSTERS FOR USE ON CUBESATS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this