Thrusters (spacecraft)

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thruster is a propulsive device used by spacecraft for station keeping, attitude control, in the reaction control system, or long-duration, low-thrust acceleration. A vernier engine or gimbal engine is a particular case used on launch vehicles where a secondary rocket or other high thrust device is used to control the attitude of the rocket while the primary thrust engine (generally also a rocket engine) is fixed to the rocket and supplies the principal amount of thrust. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Spacecraft propulsion method used to accelerate spacecraft

Spacecraft propulsion is any method used to accelerate spacecraft and artificial satellites. Space propulsion or in-space propulsion exclusively deals with propulsion systems used in the vacuum of space and should not be confused with launch vehicles. Several methods, both pragmatic and hypothetical, have been developed each having its own drawbacks and advantages.

In astrodynamics, the orbital maneuvers made by thruster burns that are needed to keep a spacecraft in a particular assigned orbit are called orbital station-keeping.

Reaction control system Spacecraft thrusters used to provide attitude control and translation

A reaction control system (RCS) is a spacecraft system that uses thrusters to provide attitude control, and sometimes translation. Use of diverted engine thrust to provide stable attitude control of a short-or-vertical takeoff and landing aircraft below conventional winged flight speeds, such as with the Harrier "jump jet", may also be referred to as a reaction control system.

Some devices that are use or proposed to use as thrusters are:

A cold gas thruster is a type of rocket engine which uses the expansion of a pressurized gas to generate thrust. As opposed to traditional rocket engines, a cold gas thruster does not house any combustion and therefore has lower thrust and efficiency compared to conventional monopropellant and bipropellant rocket engines. Cold gas thrusters have been referred to as the "simplest manifestation of a rocket engine" because their design consists only of a fuel tank, a regulating valve, a propelling nozzle, and the little required plumbing. They are the cheapest, simplest, and most reliable propulsion systems available for orbital maintenance, maneuvering and attitude control.

The electrodeless plasma thruster is a spacecraft propulsion engine commercialized under the acronym "E-IMPAcT" for "Electrodeless-Ionization Magnetized Ponderomotive Acceleration Thruster". It was created by Mr. Gregory Emsellem based on technology developed by French Atomic Energy Commission scientist Dr Richard Geller and Dr. Terenzio Consoli, for high speed plasma beam production.

Ion thruster Propulsion method for spacecraft

An ion thruster or ion drive is a form of electric propulsion used for spacecraft propulsion. It creates thrust by accelerating ions using electricity.

See also

Liquid-propellant rocket rocket engine that uses liquid propellants

A liquid-propellant rocket or liquid rocket is a rocket engine that uses liquid propellants. Liquids are desirable because their reasonably high density allows the volume of the propellant tanks to be relatively low, and it is possible to use lightweight centrifugal turbopumps to pump the propellant from the tanks into the combustion chamber, which means that the propellants can be kept under low pressure. This permits the use of low-mass propellant tanks, resulting in a high mass ratio for the rocket.

Geostationary orbit Circular orbit above the Earths equator and following the direction of the Earths rotation

A geostationary orbit, often referred to as a geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO), is a circular geosynchronous orbit 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above Earth's equator and following the direction of Earth's rotation.

Apogee kick motor type of rocket motor

An apogee kick motor (AKM) refers to a rocket motor that is regularly employed on artificial satellites to provide the final impulse to change the trajectory from the transfer orbit into its final orbit. For a satellite launched from the Earth, the rocket firing is done at the highest point of the transfer orbit, known as the apogee, thus giving the engine its name.

Related Research Articles

Hall-effect thruster A type of electric propulsion system.

In spacecraft propulsion, a Hall-effect thruster (HET) is a type of ion thruster in which the propellant is accelerated by an electric field. Hall-effect thrusters use a magnetic field to limit the electrons' axial motion and then use them to ionize propellant, efficiently accelerate the ions to produce thrust, and neutralize the ions in the plume. Hall-effect thrusters are sometimes referred to as Hall thrusters or Hall-current thrusters. The Hall-effect thruster is classed as a moderate specific impulse space propulsion technology and has benefited from considerable theoretical and experimental research since the 1960s.

Magnetoplasmadynamic thruster MPD thruster usually used to propel spacecraft

A magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster (MPDT) is a form of electrically powered spacecraft propulsion which uses the Lorentz force to generate thrust. It is sometimes referred to as Lorentz Force Accelerator (LFA) or MPD arcjet.

A pulsed plasma thruster (PPT), also known as a plasma jet engine, is a form of electric spacecraft propulsion. PPTs are generally considered the simplest form of electric spacecraft propulsion and were the first form of electric propulsion to be flown in space, having flown on two Soviet probes starting in 1964. PPTs are generally flown on spacecraft with a surplus of electricity from abundantly available solar energy.

Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket concept for an advanced propulsion rocket engine

The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) is an electrothermal thruster under development for possible use in spacecraft propulsion. It uses radio waves to ionize and heat an inert propellant, then a magnetic field to accelerate the resulting plasma, generating thrust. It is a plasma propulsion engine, one of several types of spacecraft electric propulsion systems.

Thruster may refer to:

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle expendable system for launching satellites, developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is an expendable medium-lift launch vehicle designed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into sun-synchronous orbits, a service that was, until the advent of the PSLV in 1993, commercially available only from Russia. PSLV can also launch small size satellites into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Field-emission electric propulsion (FEEP) is an advanced electrostatic space propulsion concept, a form of ion thruster, that uses liquid metal as a propellant. A FEEP device consists of an emitter and an accelerator electrode. A potential difference of the order of 10 kV is applied between the two, which generates a strong electric field at the tip of the metal surface. The interplay of electric force and surface tension generates surface instabilities which give rise to Taylor cones on the liquid surface. At sufficiently high values of the applied field, ions are extracted from the cone tip by field evaporation or similar mechanisms, which then are accelerated to high velocities.

Laser propulsion Low thrust, high specific-inpulse propulsion method for spacecrafts and satilites.

Laser propulsion is a form of beam-powered propulsion where the energy source is a remote laser system and separate from the reaction mass. This form of propulsion differs from a conventional chemical rocket where both energy and reaction mass come from the solid or liquid propellants carried on board the vehicle.

This is an alphabetical list of articles pertaining specifically to aerospace engineering. For a broad overview of engineering, see List of engineering topics. For biographies, see List of engineers.

The helicon double-layer thruster is a prototype spacecraft propulsion engine. It was created by Australian scientist Dr Christine Charles, based on a technology invented by Professor Rod Boswell, both of the Australian National University.

Plasma propulsion engine

A plasma propulsion engine is a type of electric propulsion that generates thrust from a quasi-neutral plasma. This is in contrast to ion thruster engines, which generate thrust through extracting an ion current from plasma source, which is then accelerated to high velocities using grids/anodes. These exist in many forms. Plasma thrusters do not typically use high voltage grids or anodes/ cathodes to accelerate the charged particles in the plasma, but rather uses currents and potentials which are generated internally in the plasma to accelerate the plasma ions. While this results in a lower exhaust velocity by virtue of the lack of high accelerating voltages, this type of thruster has a number of advantages. The lack of high voltage grids of anodes removes a possible limiting element as a result of grid ion erosion. The plasma exhaust is 'quasi-neutral', which means that ion and electrons exist in equal number, which allows simply ion-electron recombination in the exhaust to neutralise the exhaust plume, removing the need for an electron gun. This type of thruster often generates the source plasma using radio frequency or microwave energy, using an external antenna. This fact, combined with the absence of hollow cathodes allows the intriguing possibility of being able to use this type of thruster on a huge range of propellants, from argon, to carbon dioxide, air mixtures to astronaut urine.

Electrically powered spacecraft propulsion

An electrically-powered spacecraft propulsion system uses electrical energy to change the velocity of a spacecraft. Most of these kinds of spacecraft propulsion systems work by electrically expelling propellant at high speed, but electrodynamic tethers work by interacting with a planet's magnetic field.

A reaction engine is an engine or motor that produces thrust by expelling reaction mass, in accordance with Newton's third law of motion. This law of motion is most commonly paraphrased as: "For every action force there is an equal, but opposite, reaction force."

Rocket propellant chemical or mixture used as fuel for a rocket engine

Rocket propellant is the reaction mass of a rocket. This reaction mass is ejected at the highest achievable velocity from a rocket engine to produce thrust. The energy required can either come from the propellants themselves, as with a chemical rocket, or from an external source, as with ion engines.


Busek Co. Inc. is a spacecraft propulsion company providing thrusters, electronics, and complete systems for spacecraft.

Proposed in-space propulsion technologies describe the propulsion technologies that could meet future space science and exploration needs. These propulsion technologies are intended to provide effective exploration of our Solar System and will permit mission designers to plan missions to "fly anytime, anywhere, and complete a host of science objectives at the destinations" and with greater reliability and safety. With a wide range of possible missions and candidate propulsion technologies, the question of which technologies are "best" for future missions is a difficult one. A portfolio of propulsion technologies should be developed to provide optimum solutions for a diverse set of missions and destinations.

Liquid apogee engine

A liquid apogee engine (LAE), or apogee engine, refers to a type of chemical rocket engine typically used as the main engine in a spacecraft.


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  2. "thruster". Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged (Hardcover) (12th ed.). HarperCollins Publishers. 2014. ISBN   9780007522743 . Retrieved 2016-09-21.
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  4. "space Propulsion Systems". Airbus Safran Launchers . Retrieved 2016-09-21.
  5. "Thruster". Collins English Dictionary . Retrieved 2016-09-21.