Fluidic Microsystems for Micropropulsion Applications in Space
Abstract: Spacecraft on interplanetary missions or advanced satellites orbiting the Earth all require propulsion systems to complete their missions. Introducing microelectromechanical systems technology to the space industry will not only reduce size and weight of the propulsion system, but can also increase the performance of the mission.Fluid handling systems are used in chemical and electric propulsion. Some components incorporated in a fluidic handling system are presented and evaluated in this work.Microsystems are very sensitive to contamination. Reliable, robust, and easily integrated filters were modeled, manufactured, and experimentally verified.A fluid connector, designed to withstand large temperature variations and aggressive propellants was manufactured and characterized. Similar designs was also be used as a thermally activated minute valve.The feasibility of a cold gas system for precise attitude control has been demonstrated. Steps towards improving the performance (from specific im-pulse 45 s) have been taken, by the integration of suspended heater elements.For electric propulsion, two thermally regulated flow restrictors have been characterized. These devices can fine-tune the propellant flow to e.g. an ion engine.A single-use valve using a soldered seal has also been successfully dem-onstrated within a pressure range of 5 to 100 bar.The microsystem-based propulsion systems of tomorrow’s spacecraft need to be demonstrated in space, in order to gain necessary credibility.
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