An efficient propulsion system would use a micropulse detonation rocket engine (–PDRE) for nano-satellite maneuverability in space. Technical objectives are to design, build, and conduct a small detonation tube experiment in order to explore the feasibility of using –PDRE for propelling a nano-satellite. The plan is to study the requirement and predict the performance of –PDRE using various candidate propellants, as well as to conduct ground experiments, demonstrate useful thrust, and measure the specific impulse in a two-year time frame, so that a follow-on project can be proposed in a future NRI Center Innovation Fund.

The main advantages of –PDRE are small engine volume, relatively high thermodynamic efficiency, and controllable thrust. In –PDRE, there is no need for a turbopump, or for a high pressurization system, because propellants can be injected at low pressures. Also, the thermodynamic cycle of –PDRE is based on constant-volume heat addition rather than on constant-pressure heat addition. This results in a much higher pressure ratio, and thus, a higher thrust coefficient over other chemical propulsion options. Furthermore, because propulsive force comes from each detonation pulse, a –PDRE can provide digital-like impulses for better controllability in thrust amount. This will provide a key advantage over other propulsion systems in terms of maneuverability.

This work was done by Daniel Ramspacher of Goddard Space Flight Center and Kenneth Yu of ORAA. GSC-16489-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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