Space Propulsion

The ElectroMagnetic Plasmoid Thruster

The EMPT thruster, funded by NASA, is a 1 kW-class RMF thruster, operates on the same physics principles as the ELF thruster. This device, less than 4 inches in diameter, has proven that pulsed inductive technolgoies can be succesfully miniaturized. Indeed, this thruster has demonstrated operation from 0.5 to 5 Joules, as well as the first pulsed inductive steady state operation. The EMPT has demonstrated greater than 1E8 continuous plasma discharges.



The Fusion Driven Rocket

The future of manned space exploration and development of space depends critically on the creation of a vastly more efficient propulsion architecture for in-space transportation. Nuclear-powered rockets can provide the large energy density gain required. A small scale, low cost path to fusion-based propulsion is to be investigated. It is accomplished by employing the propellant to compress and heat a magnetized plasma to fusion conditions, and thereby channel the fusion energy released into heating only the propellant. Passage of the hot propellant through a magnetic nozzle rapidly converts this thermal energy into both directed (propulsive) energy and electrical energy.build_big_flipped_small


The Electrodeless Lorentz Force Thruster

ELF250_schematicThe ELF-250 thruster, funded by the NASA NextSTEP program, utilizes Rotating Magnetic Field (RMF) and pulsed-inductive technologies that promise radical advances in space propulsion. The ELF creates, forms, and accelerates field-reversed plasma toroids to high velocity. It has demonstrated the ability to efficiently utilize complex propellants such as Martian Air, Liquid Water, and Hydrazine . The ELF-250 is a 100 kW class thruster for deep space missions.

The ELF enables a broad range of high-power propulsion missions. Fundamentally, this technology has significantly greater thrust and power densities than any realizable propulsion technology. The ability to operate on in situ propellants will enable very eccentric orbit propulsion, re-fuelable orbital transfer vehicles, deep space return missions, and even direct drag makeup for extremely low orbits. At current power levels, this thruster technology minimizes system mass, size, and cost, while increasing overall mission flexibility. Finally, extending this technology to higher densities and powers that have been demonstrated in the laboratory, there are mission applications in high-altitude, air-breathing, hypersonic flight and beamed-energy upper stage propulsion that are not feasible with traditional technologies. Please see technical publications below for a complete description of experiments, thruster specifications, and results.

Space Propulsion Publications