Electric thruster to boost satellite life span

Electric thruster to boost satellite life span

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists, after several years of research, have now given the nation an electric thruster pegged to enhance the life of the spacecraft, thereby increasing its efficiency level.

The most common rocket engine is the chemical type in which hot exhaust gases are produced by chemical combustion. The chemicals or propellants, are of two types, oxidiser and fuel, corresponding to gasoline and oxygen in an automobile engine. Both are required for combustion. They may either be solid or liquid chemicals.

While this has proven to be an effective system, the use of plasma rocket booster is considered to be a breakthrough technology. Speaking to Deccan Herald, ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) Director T K Alex said: “This is basically an electric thruster. We would use Xenon at high speed to apply the voltage through the nozzles using a sophisticated method creating plasma.” The satellites will avail electricity through the onboard solar panels, he added.

He said that in the initial two years the spacecraft generally has surplus power that could be generated from the solar panels, which would gradually deteriorate. And that is where this technology would prove vital.

Scientists believe that this will  increase the efficiency of the spacecraft as it will help reduce the weight onboard through reduced dependence on chemicals (which are carried in tonnes) and also because it will increase the life of the spacecraft itself.

While pointing out that this technology will supplement the chemical-based thruster, Alex said, it will have the plasma boosters on the payloads of all its big satellites (over 4,000 kg)  once it is tested successfully.

In fact, the technology which was ready for use earlier this year could not be tested as the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3), which was to test fly indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) carrying this particular payload failed due to a technical glitch.

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