6, May 2021

ESA Open Invitation to Tender: 1-10692
Open Date: 03/05/2021 16:18 CEST
Closing Date: 28/06/2021 13:00 CEST

Design and analysis of a low power, long lifetime neutraliser suitable for electric micropropulsion for future scientific missions.Electric micropropulsion technologies providing precise, low thrust levels in the micro-Newton to milli-Newton range with high specific impulse are under development within Europe to meet the challenging propulsion requirements for scientific missions (such as for drag-free control of spacecraft or for high delta-v small satellite missions). These technologies often require an electron source for space-charge neutralisation of the ion beam and to mitigate spacecraft charging effects. In order to maximise the efficiency of the overall micropropulsion subsystem, the consumption (power, and mass flow if applicable) of the neutraliser should be minimised. Developments have been undertaken in the past on different types of neutraliser technology for electric micropropulsion, such as plasma based devices, low power thermionic cathodes and also field emission cold cathodes. Promising performances have been demonstrated in previous decades for the latter cathode devices, such as power consumption 0.1 W/mA and current levels 7 mA. Some of these devices have been tested up to several 1000 hours, but extending the operational lifetime of these devices towards 10,000 hours or more (as might be needed for some future scientific missions) remains a challenge considering the local plasma environment expected on orbit. However, in recent years advances have been made in novel cathode materials and devices (e.g. for microscopy applications or for THz devices) that could prove beneficial for low power, long lifetime neutralisers for electric micropropulsion.The main objective of this activity is to assess the state-of-art in novel cathode materials and devices (such as novel electride materials, diamond or graphene based cathodes) and to design a low power neutraliser suitable for electric micropropulsion subsystems for future scientific missions. The activity shall cover:- State-of-art review of low power neutralisers previously developed for electric micropropulsion;- Survey of novel cathode materials and devices to identify one or more that could improve performances beyond the state-of-art;- Requirements definition for a long lifetime (>several 1000 hours), low power neutraliser for future scientific missions;- Preliminary design of a neutraliser in accordance with the requirements, and necessary analyses to support justification of predicted performances;- Identification of lifetime limiting factors and a lifetime assessment report.- Definition of a roadmap for future neutraliser development, and assessment on additional applications for space (such as for spacecraft potential control or scaling to higher current applications).

Directorate: Directorate of Tech, Eng. Quality
Estabilishment: ESTEC
ECOS Required: No
Classified: No
Price Range: 100-200 KEURO
Contracts Officer: Rudolfo Almeida
Initiating Service: TEC-MPE
IP Measure: N/A
Prog. Reference: E/0901-01 – Technology Developme
Tender Type: Open Competition
Technology Keywords: 19-B-I-Electrostatic Systems
Products Keywords: 2-K-3-a-Electrostatic Propulsion Systems / 2-K-3.1-c-Thruster module (Plasma/Ion Thrusters), Xenon Flow Control Unit,… *For Thruster Pointing See Mechanisms

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