Recent efforts conducted at SPL have validated the use of electrospray thrusters as precise attitude control actuators in a relevant environment. The thruster characteristics have the potential to allow for long term pointing in the arcsecond range or better with practically no jitter. In ground tests, electrospray thrusters are capable of producing pointing accuracies around a given setpoint of 22 arcseconds 3σ error during 10 hours on a platform similar in size and mass to a 1U CubeSat. The implementation of such capabilities could complement or eliminate the need of reaction wheels and magnetorquers, especially in missions beyond low earth orbit, while including propulsive capabilities for additional maneuverability in technology development or scientific missions.
F. Mier-Hicks and P. Lozano. “Electrospray Thrusters as Precise Attitude Control Actuators for Small Satellites”. Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics.
Besides attitude control demonstrations, the results from the experimental tests demonstrate that neutralization with heavy ionic species is indeed possible. This eliminates the need for a neutralizing cathode which are usually employed in conventional electric propulsion systems.
F. Mier-Hicks and P. Lozano. “Spacecraft Charging Characteristics Induced by the Operation of Electrospray Thrusters”. Journal of Propulsion and Power.
For further details, visit Spacecraft Systems