Propellant feed control for ion engines
Starling, Dan A., Jr.
Millsaps, Knox T., Jr.
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An overview of space electric propulsion (SEP) is presented. Methods of throttling the power levels of electrostatic and electromagnetic thrusters are discussed. Particular attention is given to the concept of thermally- throttling propellant flow using the temperature-viscosity characteristics of xenon gas. The thermoproperties of xenon gas as a function of temperature are determined, and the flow regimes of the propellant at the mass flow rates of interest are studied. The propellant flow is presented separately as Fanno flow and as Rayleigh flow, and then those combined effects are considered. A method for predicting the performance of thermally-throttled systems is presented. Uncertainties in modeling real-world thermal throttling systems are discussed. The possible use of thermal throttling characteristics as a means of propellant pressure regulation is also examined.
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