A report describes an improved micromachined vaporizing-liquid microthruster (VLM), now under development as a prototype of thrusters for microspacecraft. This thruster is of the resistojet type: the energy for vaporization and expansion of a propellant liquid is provided through electrical-resistance heating. A typical VLM of prior design, fabricated on a chip, was comparatively bulky and was energy-inefficient because much of the energy that should have gone into heating the propellant was wasted in heating the chip.
This work was done by David Bame, Indrani Chakraborty, Juergen Mueller, and Stephen Vargo of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To obtain a copy of the report, "Micro Machined Vaporizing Liquid Microthruster (VLM) with Superior Thrust Vector Control and Increased Thermal Efficiency," access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp under the Machinery/Automation category.