Sound-Off: Can Hydrogen be Stored in Carbon Nanotubes?

The fuel cell, an increasingly popular device in the automotive sector, creates a power source when coupled with hydrogen. The hydrogen can be made from natural gas or electrolysis of water and then compressed for storage. The challenge: How do you store hydrogen at low pressure?

Posted in: News, Energy Storage, Power Transmission, Propulsion

Technical Webinar Series from the Editors of SAE: Advances in Unmanned System Propulsion

In Conjunction with SAE

The development of new propulsion technologies has been the focus of R&D looking to provide the functionality needed for unmanned aircraft systems, including vertical takeoff and landing, long endurance, stealthy operations, and stability in hostile environments. Their development also incorporates advances in scalability, re-configurability, and extensions that host functions to legitimate business opportunities such as goods delivery, agriculture, firefighting, news gathering, and military operations. Success means reduced operation and maintenance costs as well as less complexity, but it also brings higher functioning systems.

Posted in: On-Demand Webinars, Upcoming Webinars, Propulsion

Green Monopropellant Secondary Payload Propulsion System

Small satellites, launched as secondary payloads, are increasingly being fielded. Advances in liquid rocket propulsion that enhance the on-orbit maneuverability, increase the on-orbit life, and decrease the time between identified need for and deployment of such spacecraft are of great value. Replacing the nearly ubiquitous yet toxic hydrazine propellant with AF-M315E produces higher specific impulse and density specific impulse, resulting in improved overall velocity change capability and increased on-orbit life.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion

Flame Holder System

Potential applications include jet engine simulation, and torches for forging, casting furnaces, and pottery kilns.

NASA's Langley Research Center is seeking to improve upon stock stainless steel flame holders. Researchers at NASA Langley have developed a new ceramic design with a service temperature of 4000 °F. The combination of high strength and high temperature capability, and a twist lock mounting method to the steel burner, sets this flame holder apart from existing technology.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Ceramics, Heat resistant materials, Steel, Nozzles, Rocket engines

Magnetically Conformed, Variable-Area Discharge Chamber for Hall Thruster, and Method

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a Hall thruster with a variable-area discharge chamber that improves the performance and lifetime of the thruster. Conventional Hall thrusters have poor ionization efficiency, which limits the thrust-to-power ratio that can be achieved with the thruster. JPL's novel Hall thruster has a variable-area discharge chamber that conforms to the curvature of the local magnetic field and optimizes the ionization efficiency of the thruster and, therefore, significantly improves the power-to-thrust ratio that can be achieved. This innovative device decreases spacecraft costs and enables fast, efficient orbit transfers.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Engine efficiency, Spacecraft

Multi-Thruster Propulsion Apparatus

This device switches between ion- or Hall-thruster mode, depending on whether the principal need is efficiency or thrust power.

Two different types of electrostatic thrusters are used to propel spacecraft: ion thrusters and Hall-effect thrusters. Ion thrusters have the benefit of relatively high exhaust velocities with higher overall thrust efficiencies. Hall-effect thrusters typically offer higher thrust-to-power ratios, but they operate somewhat less efficiently than ion thrusters. To take advantage of both thrusters’ strengths, innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed what is essentially a dual-thruster propulsion system. This patented electric propulsion device offers the ability to switch a spacecraft's propulsion system to ion-thruster mode or Hall-thruster mode, depending on whether the principal need is efficiency or thrust power. In addition, Glenn's novel technology allows the dual thruster to operate in burst mode, with one thruster acting as an ion thruster and one as a Hall thruster. This capability can be valuable to facilitate smooth transitions between operating modes or to raise total thrust level (for short periods) beyond what either mode can achieve on its own.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Electro-thermal engines, Engine efficiency, Spacecraft

Propellant Distributor for a Thruster

Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed several new technological innovations to improve the capability of Hall-effect thrusters, which are used primarily on Earth-orbiting satellites and can also be used for deep-space robotic vehicles. Hall thrusters are susceptible to discharge channel erosion from high-energy ion impingement, which can reduce operational thruster lifetimes. Glenn researchers have developed several approaches to mitigate this problem. One is a magnetic circuit design that minimizes discharge chamber ion impingement. Another successful improvement developed by Glenn is a means of replacing eroded discharge channel material via a channel wall replacement mechanism. A third innovation is a propellant distributor that provides both a high degree of flow uniformity, and shielding from back-sputtered contamination and other potential contaminants. All of these advances work toward increasing the operational lifetime and efficiency of Hall thrusters.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Propellants, Performance upgrades, Engine efficiency, Satellites

Technical Webinar Series from the Editors of SAE: Hybrid & EV Propulsion

In Conjunction with SAE

Greater use of vehicle electrification is essential for OEMs to meet the far more stringent global CO2 emission standards coming early in the next decade, and the technologies related to batteries, power control, and e-motors are progressing steadily. New vehicle electrical architectures, including 48-V hybrid systems and lower-cost EV drives, are poised to play a major role. In this 60-minute Webinar, experts discuss what’s over the technology horizon and what challenges engineers face as the plug-in future approaches.

Posted in: On-Demand Webinars, Propulsion

Is Pluto a Planet? Scientists Seek New Definition

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to "non-planet" status. Johns Hopkins University scientist Kirby Runyon led a group of six researchers to draft a new definition of "planet" — one that includes more than 100 other celestial bodies, including Pluto. The proposal was presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, hosted in Houston, Texas on March 21.

Posted in: News, Cameras, Imaging, Physical Sciences, Propulsion

High Speed Idle Engine Control Mode

Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed an engine control mode that improves an engine's responsiveness to throttle commands during emergency landing conditions. The high speed idle (HSI) control mode increases the speed of the engine's fan and core shafts, allowing faster response and increased maneuverability during landing conditions when engines are in a low-power state. The innovation uses existing engine actuators to change the engine operating point to allow for faster engine response. Use of HSI increases fuel consumption, but it is anticipated to be used only in emergencies where the additional engine performance will help improve aircraft survivability.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace, Propulsion, Sensors and actuators, Engine control systems, Hazards and emergency management, Hazards and emergency operations, Entry, descent, and landing

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