Technion researcher develops revolutionary electric rocket
engine for small satellites
CAMILA - the revolutionary Hall thruster
Rocket scientists from the Asher Space Research Institute (ASRI) have developed a new rocket engine design that allows small satellites for space missions to consume less fuel and operate more efficiently. The engine, dubbed CAMILA (Co-Axial Magneto Isolated Longitudinal Anode), has aroused great interest at two international conferences. Technion has registered a patent on this development, which is slated primarily for the microsatellite industry. ASRI has established a special laboratory for electric propulsion to develop and test the performance of these novel engines.
developed at Technion’s Asher Space
Research Institute1 - Acceleration assembly
(a - annual acceleration channel)
2 - Cathode-neutralizer
3 - Fuel feed line
Prof. Ehud Behar, newly appointed ASRI head, says of the innovation: “Electrical thrusters such as CAMILA are emerging as a cornerstone of the microsatellite industry and their use around the world is rapidly growing. The efficiency of the CAMILA thruster supersedes that of currently used engines.
We are in the final stages of testing the CAMILA at the Technion and expect it to become space-qualified soon.”
The novel engine belongs to a group called Hall thrusters whose working principle is based on ionizing fuel - namely, extracting electrons from the atoms of xenon gas - and accelerating it in electric and magnetic fields towards the exhaust.
Dr Alexander Kapulkin, lead researcher at the thrust design group at ASRI, conceived the innovative engine. He earned his PhD from the Atomic Energy Institute in Moscow, under the supervision of Prof. Alexei Morozov - one of the world’s founding fathers of electric rockets. Kapulkin, the former head of the Physics and Engineering Laboratory and professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine, joined the Technion in 2000 as a senior researcher.
The Technion researchers explain that in a regular (chemical fuel) rocket engine, gas exhaust speed does not exceed 4 to 5 km per second, while the speed range of gas exhaust in an electric rocket engine is greater. This speed depends on the satellite mission and there is an “optimal exhaust gas speed.” Today, the optimal speed of the electric rocket engine in most satellites is some 20 km per second. The resulting high speed in these engines enables decreasing the amount of fuel needed to carry out space missions and therefore the satellite mass, and eventually to reduce launch cost. Most satellites launched today are small satellites, which require for their operation a small electric rocket engine with a low fuel supply like the ones developed at the Technion.
Significant improvements in the Technion-developed engine include a revolutionary fuel-delivery design and an innovative magnetic field configuration that propels the engine significantly faster. This innovation consumes less fuel, thus increasing engine efficiency. The impact will be reduced size, weight, and cost of small satellites.