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Direct drive options for electric propulsion systems

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1 Author(s)
Hamley, J.A. ; NASA Lewis Res. Center, Cleveland, OH, USA

Power processing units (PPUs) in an electric propulsion system provide many challenging integration issues. The PPU must provide power to the electric thruster while maintaining compatibility with all of the spacecraft power and data systems. Inefficiencies in the power processor produce heat, which must be radiated to the environment in order to ensure reliable operation. Although PPU efficiencies are generally greater than 0.9, heat loads are often substantial. This heat must be rejected by thermal control systems which generally have specific masses of 15-30 kg/kW. PPUs also represent a large fraction of the electric propulsion system dry mass. Simplification or elimination of power processing in a propulsion system would reduce the electric propulsion system specific mass and improve the overall reliability and performance. A direct drive system would eliminate all or some of the power supplies required to operate a thruster by directly connecting the various thruster loads to the solar array. The development of concentrator solar arrays has enabled power bus voltages in excess of 300 V which is high enough for direct drive applications for Hall thrusters such as the Stationary Plasma Thruster (SPT). The option of solar array direct drive for SPTs is explored to provide a comparison between conventional and direct drive system mass

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:11 ,  Issue: 2 )