Overview of AFRL's Modeling Activities on Electric Propulsion Devices

Samuel Araki
Air Force Research Laboratory
In-Space Propulsion Branch

Electric propulsion (EP) devices use electric power to accelerate plasma to achieve higher propellant exhaust velocity. Because of the very high efficiency of these devices, a significant reduction in the propellent mass can be realized, leading to a much lower launch cost and making various space missions affordable. Modeling of these devices to assess the spacecraft integration is not trivial due to the electrostatic and collisional effects, surface interaction and charging, and a wide range of plasma density resulted from a high density plasma (of the order of 10^18 m^-3) in the thruster expanding into space. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is currently in development of an in-house framework that can simulate a plasma under a wide range of time and length scales by incorporating various models including Magnetohydrodynamics, Vlasov, Fokker-Planck, and Particle-In-Cell solvers with both Direct Simulation Monte Carlo and Monte Carlo Collision methods. Unified framework for different models facilitates hybridization of models. In this presentation, we will give an overview of AFRL's modeling framework and describe our recent research in accelerating spacecraft simulations.

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