Micromachined thrusters may one day manoeuvre spacecraft and to prove it US firm TRW has fired one in a sub-orbital rocket test. "The test proves the technology behind this micro-thruster is well along in its development," said David Lewis, TRW's digital micro-propulsion project manager.
"We're very pleased with its performance and believe micro-thrusters have the potential to provide on-orbit propulsion for station keeping, orbital correction and attitude control for future very small satellites weighing from less than a pound to as much as 50 pounds [22kg]," said Lewis.
The thruster is an array of fire-once microthrusters, each the size of a poppy seed, made as a three-layer silicon-glass sandwich.
The lead-styphnate-containing propellant cells are in the middle layer. The front layer has a matching array of rupturable diaphragms and the back holds an igniter for each cell.
When ignited, each cell delivers a single impulse. The test array was fired more than 20 times at onesecond intervals during the test. Each thruster delivered 1O-4 Ns of impulse.
Source: Electronic World 2001-08
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