A ballistic-pendulum test stand to characterize small cold-gas thruster nozzles
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This paper deals with the design, development and experimentation of a new test stand for the accurate and precise charac- terization of small cold-gas nozzles having thrust of the order of 0.1N and specific impulse of the order of 10s. As part of the presented research, a new cold-gas supersonic nozzle was designed and developed based on the quasi one-dimensional theory. The test stand is based on the ballistic-pendulum principle: in particular, it consists of a suspended gondola hosting the propul- sion system and the sample nozzle. The propulsion system consists of an air tank, pressure regulator, solenoid valve, battery and digital timer to command the valve. The gondola is equipped with a fin, immersed in water, to provide torsional and lat- eral oscillation damping. A laser sensor measures the displacement of the gondola. The developed test stand was calibrated by using a mathematical model based on the inelastic collision theory. The obtained accuracy was of ∼1%. Sample experimental results are reported regarding the comparison of the new supersonic nozzle with a commercially available subsonic nozzle. The obtained measurements of thrust, mass flow rate and specific impulse are precise to a level of ∼3%. The broad goal of the presented research was to contribute to an upgraded design of a spacecraft simulator used for laboratory validation of guidance, navigation and control algorithms for autonomous docking manoeuvres.
The article of record may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2008.11.001
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