New space, electric conduction ফ focus on tomorrow’s rockets

2022 will be an important year for space exploration. Although we will begin analyzing the first data sent by the American James-Webb Telescope this summer, China should launch its space station by September. A total of 19 launchers, six probes, several landers and orbiters, two telescopes and countless satellites should also be launched in the twelve months of 2022. This year will also be the year when this new wave of space, this wave of initiative, should really be the winner for the private space companies that are slowly replacing public administration.

2022 will be the first year where more people than government employees go into space as customers “Predictions, for example, Tom Standage, editor-in-chief of the annual special issue of British Magazine Economist.

But behind the space tourism show, 2022 will be the year of confirmation of the specific space propulsion technology of the future. NASA has commissioned New Zealand start-up Rocket Lab on a mission to equip a small satellite with its new ACS3 solar sail in its electron microlancer, and its psychic mission will be led by an American expert in Hall-Effect electric propulsion. , Maxar Technology.

Beihangkongshi 1 from Chinese space, the first satellite equipped with an iodine electric thruster called NPT30-I2, designed by French start-up ThrustMe. Rocketman Shi – Space

French SME Comet should launch the first satellite into orbit using electric vacuum arc technology, and French start-up Gamma wants to test its own solar sail by the end of the year.

New thruster

Electric conduction and the solar vessel is an old concept, theoretical around the 1960s, that lost interest due to the lack of performance comparable to traditional chemical propulsion. ” Reducing costs with a simpler engine in early 2006, SpaceX ended the race for performance alone. “Jean-Claude remembers Traineau, the space director at the National Office for Aerospace Studies and Research (Onera).

The commercialization of reusable launchers and the advent of three-dimensional coupling production are helping to further reduce the cost of these huge machines used for space rockets and probes. For example, SpaceX today offers an average launch price of $ 4,700 to $ 12,600 per kilogram, while its main competitor, ArianSpace, ranges from $ 8,300 to $ 18,700 per kilogram using its launch vehicle. Ariadne 5.

At the same time, satellites are getting smaller and more numerous.

Of the 39 nano- and microsatellites (1-100 kg) launched in 2011, Starlink (SpaceX), OneWeb and others sent 389 in 2019 and 1,202 in 2020. And that’s not going to stop: According to the Euroconsult report released in April 2021, 13,910 small satellites (less than 500 kg) should be put into orbit by 2030, more than four times between 2011 and 2020.

Usually launched in clusters, these small satellites need to reach their orbits, adjust their orientation or even de-orbit towards the end of their lives – and thus avoid being associated with the 10,000 tons of debris that is estimated to be populated in space. 2021. Enough to return the letter of his nobility to the electric conductor. Far from showing performance like chemical engines – they have a bright future ahead of them for launching from the earth – electric motors are enough for basic techniques in small machines.

On the NASA Psychic Space Probe is the assembly of the effect thruster.

On the NASA Psychic Space Probe is the assembly of the effect thruster. NASA JPL Caltech

Currently, 45 companies are involved in electrical propulsion, with the exception of Icare Laboratory (CNRS) research director Stephen Majofre, China. By democratizing these technologies, the next ” Just as SpaceX and Blue Origin transformed the launcher, it is revolutionizing the world of satellites. Dan Goebel, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and responsible for Psyche, is one of two future NASA missions planning to use Hall effect propulsion, while the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) did not hesitate to confirm the mission. NEXT – for the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – uses a grid ion engine to deflect an asteroid crash plan in 2022.

Like electricity, the glory driven by the solar sail is experiencing a new hour. In 2010, inspired by the success of the Japanese Icarus mission for interplanetary kite-craft accelerated by solar radiation – and the American Icarus 2 for American Lightsell 2 in 2019, young French entrepreneur Louis de Gaulle Matignon wants to launch his microsatellite into the gamma orbit. Alpha has been pushed by a solar sail of 111 m2 from 2023. The Solar Cruiser, a NASA probe powered by a giant solar sail (1,672 m2), will not be launched until 2025.

France, champion of electric driving

If the space sector has long been the prerogative of the Americans, competed by the Russians yesterday and the Chinese today, the electric drive is very French. ” In this region, France has a unique ecosystem in the world “Alberto Rossi, head of the propulsion, pyrotechnics and aerodynamics department at the National Center for Space Studies (Cnes).

In terms of research, the tools of CNS, CNRS and the National Office for Aerospace Studies and Research (ONERA) are envied around the world. But above all, in our private sector, the doctor refers to electric propulsion. Safran is one of the two world leaders in Hall-effect electric propulsion for a large satellite – with Russia’s OKB Fakel. ArianeGroup certainly manufactures its ion radio frequency thrusters in Germany, but this joint venture is the result of a collaboration between two French companies, Airbus and Safran.

As Thales Alenia Space, it was the birth of an alliance between the French Thales and the Italian Leonardo. Not to mention emerging start-ups: Exotrail for nanosatellites and its effects are Thraster, ThrustMy and its small grid thrusters, Comet and its solid propulsion motors, Ion-X and its electrospray thrusters and gamma aimed at its solar pal wood. Space in early 2023. We are the only country, with the stateUnited and probablyFrom China, Covers all propulsion technology Electrical space “, Welcomes Alberto Rossi.

Purpose Moon… and Mars

If electric conduction and solar sails could prove effective on devices larger than Smalsat, they could pave the way for deep space missions. In the meantime, it is important to note that major space agencies are interested in these low-cost propulsion modes to support the return of humans to the moon, for example, for future gateways, supply missions to human lunar bases. The Artemis program is provided by NASA.

With, in sight, the first human step on Mars, the ultimate goal of the United States and China. To reach this, astronauts could use chemical methods, the third alternative method of nuclear driving.

The Deep Space 1 probe, launched by NASA in 1998, was the first to use an electric motor.

The Deep Space 1 probe, launched by NASA in 1998, was the first to use an electric motor. NASA / JPL

It would be difficult to use chemical or electrical conduction for anti-Mars missions – one of two types of planetary systems that allow you to stay for a short time, but require more fuel than a connecting mission.Jeff Sheahy, chief engineer at NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said. That’s why the company plans to use nuclear power. A

To date, no nuclear-powered missions have been planned, but NASA has ordered three concepts of such a system, financing of which will begin in 2022. Within ten or twenty years, solar sails and nuclear drives will find a place alongside chemical and electrical drives. “, Louis de Gaulle Matignon predicted. The coming year will be a decisive one for him.

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