Description: An electric propulsion Earth orbital transport vehicle (EOTV) can effectively deliver large payloads using much less propellant than chemical transfer methods. By using an EOTV instead of a chemical upper stage, either a smaller launch vehicle can be used for the same satellite mass or larger satellite can be deployed using the same launch vehicle. However, the propellant mass savings from using the higher specific impulse of electric propulsion may not be enough to overcome the disadvantage of the added mass and cost of the electric propulsion power source. Power system limitations have been a major factor delaying the acceptance and use of electric propulsion. This paper outlines the power requirements of electric propulsion technology being developed today, including arcjets, magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thrusters, and ion engines. Power supply characteristics are discussed for nuclear, solar, and power-beaming systems. Operational characteristics are given for each, as are the impacts of the power supply alternative on the overall craft performance. Because of its modular nature, the power-beaming approach is able to meet the power requirements of all three electric propulsion types. Also, commonality of approach allows different electric propulsion approaches to be powered by a single power supply approach. Power beaming exhibits better flexibility and performance than on-board nuclear or solar power systems.
Date: August 1, 1991
Creator: Dagle, J.E.
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