Memorias de investigación
Physics and performance of the Alternative Low Power Hybrid Ion Engine (ALPHIE) for space propulsion

Research Areas
  • Physics & space science,
  • Space science,
  • Space technology,
  • Space r&d,
  • Phisics,
  • Physics - Plasma and fluid,
  • Numerical simulation,
  • Mhd and other fluid dynamics,
  • Engineering,
  • Aeronautical engineering,
  • Flight physics,
  • Aeroengine technologies

The current status and performance of the ALPHIE plasma thruster is discussed. This new concept was the subject of two recently granted patents and is radically different from conventional (Kauffman) gridded ion engines. Since it makes use of three DC power supplies and only one electron-emitting cathode disposed outside the plasma chamber, its power processing unit has low requisites. This electron emission is employed for both ionization and neutralization of the ion beam. Contrary to usual ion engines where only ions flow through the grids, in this case ionizing electrons and supersonic ions counterflow through the open spaces of a two-grid system. The performance of this plasma thruster was determined using both laboratory tests and particle-in-cell numerical simulations which confirmed the basic physical principles of the ion acceleration process. Laboratory experiments under realistic conditions show the ALPHIE thruster to produce supersonic argon plasma flows with peak speeds of 37-44 km/s and therefore specific impulses in the range 3700-4400 s?1. Additionally, ALPHIE delivers 1-3.5 mN throttleable thrusts using a maximum peak power 325 W, all of which were directly measured in the laboratory. These performances make ALPHIE suitable for station keeping, flight formation and end-of-life disposal of small and medium sized satellites.
International Electric Propulsion Conference
Entity Nationality
University of Vienna, Austria
  • Autor: Luis Conde Lopez UPM
  • Autor: Jorge Gonzalez Muñoz UPM
  • Autor: Juan Luis Domenech Garret UPM
  • Autor: Pablo. E Maldonado Department of Space Engineering. Delft University of Technology. Kluyverweg 1, 2629HS Delft. The Netherlands
  • Autor: Julius Damba . UPM
  • Autor: Jaume Grabulosa Department of Applied Physics. E.T.S. Ingeniería Aeronáutica y del Espacio., Univ. Politécnica de Madrid
  • Autor: M. D. Lahoz Department of Applied Physics. E.T.S. Ingeniería Aeronáutica y del Espacio., Univ. Politécnica de Madrid

Research Group, Departaments and Institutes related
  • Creador: Grupo de Investigación: Grupo de Investigación en Fusión Inercial y Física de Plasmas
  • Departamento: Física Aplicada a Las Ingenierías Aeronáutica y Naval