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Title: Space micropropulsion systems for Cubesats and small satellites: From proximate targets to furthermost frontiers

Rapid evolution of miniaturized, automatic, robotized, function-centered devices has redefined space technology, bringing closer the realization of most ambitious interplanetary missions and intense near-Earth space exploration. Small unmanned satellites and probes are now being launched in hundreds at a time, resurrecting a dream of satellite constellations, i.e., wide, all-covering networks of small satellites capable of forming universal multifunctional, intelligent platforms for global communication, navigation, ubiquitous data mining, Earth observation, and many other functions, which was once doomed by the extraordinary cost of such systems. The ingression of novel nanostructured materials provided a solid base that enabled the advancement of these affordable systems in aspects of power, instrumentation, and communication. However, absence of efficient and reliable thrust systems with the capacity to support precise maneuvering of small satellites and CubeSats over long periods of deployment remains a real stumbling block both for the deployment of large satellite systems and for further exploration of deep space using a new generation of spacecraft. The last few years have seen tremendous global efforts to develop various miniaturized space thrusters, with great success stories. Yet, there are critical challenges that still face the space technology. These have been outlined at an inaugural International Workshop onmore » Micropropulsion and Cubesats, MPCS-2017, a joint effort between Plasma Sources and Application Centre/Space Propulsion Centre (Singapore) and the Micropropulsion and Nanotechnology Lab, the G. Washington University (USA) devoted to miniaturized space propulsion systems, and hosted by CNR-Nanotec—P.Las.M.I. lab in Bari, Italy. This focused review aims to highlight the most promising developments reported at MPCS-2017 by leading world-reputed experts in miniaturized space propulsion systems. Recent advances in several major types of small thrusters including Hall thrusters, ion engines, helicon, and vacuum arc devices are presented, and trends and perspectives are outlined.« less
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  1. Nanyang Technological Univ. (Singapore). Plasma Sources and Applications Centre. Space Propulsion Centre Singapore; Queensland Univ. of Technology, Brisbane, QLD (Australia). School of Chemistry, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering
  2. Queensland Univ. of Technology, Brisbane, QLD (Australia). School of Chemistry, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering
  3. Harbin Inst. of Technology (China). Plasma Propulsion Lab. Inst. of Advanced Power
  4. Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States)
  5. Univ. of Orleans (France). Inst. of Combustion, Aerothermal, Reactivity and Environment (ICARE),
  6. Justus Liebig Univ., Giessen (Germany). Inst. of Experimental Physics I
  7. Tokyo Univ. of Agriculture and Technology (Japan). Division of Advanced Mechanical Systems Engineering. Inst. of Engineering
  8. Bundeswehr Univ. Munich (Germany). Inst. of Plasma Technology and Mathematics
  9. Univ. of Toulouse (France).Plasma and Energy Conversion Lab. (LAPLACE)
  10. Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom). Astronautics Research Group. Faculty of Engineering and the Environment
  11. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., Haifa (Israel). Space Propulsion Systems Dept.
  12. National Research Council (CNR-Nanotec), Bari (Italy)
  13. Australian National Univ., Canberra, ACT (Australia). Space Plasma and Plasma Propulsion Lab. (SP3). Research School of Physics and Engineering
  14. Univ. of Tokyo, Kashiwa (Japan). Dept. of Advanced Energy
  15. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Beijing (China). Beijing Inst. of Control Engineering
  16. Univ. of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt (Austria). Aerospace Engineering Dept.
  17. George Washington Univ., Washington, DC (United States). Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  18. Nanyang Technological Univ. (Singapore). Plasma Sources and Applications Centre. Space Propulsion Centre Singapore
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
AC02-09CH11466; Rp6/16 Xs; 51777045; 51477035; JSZL2016203c006; 21226019; 17H02295; NIFS17KLER063; JP16H06370
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Applied Physics Reviews
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 5; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 1931-9401
American Institute of Physics (AIP)
Research Org:
Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States); Nanyang Technological Univ. (Singapore); Harbin Inst. of Technology (China); Tokyo Univ. of Agriculture and Technology (Japan); Univ. of Tokyo, Kashiwa (Japan)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; National Research Foundation (Singapore); National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSFC); National Technical Basic Scientific Research of China; Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS); National Inst. for Fusion Science (NIFS) (Japan)
Country of Publication:
United States
42 ENGINEERING; 79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS; 36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; space vehicles; astronomy and astrophysics; astrophysics; interdisciplinary physics; electric discharges; nanotechnology; space instruments; plasma devices; plasma physics; observational astronomy
OSTI Identifier: