Ion Propulsion Systems
Radio frequency ion propulsion systems for orbit raising, station keeping and deep space missions.
The electric propulsion solution developed by Airbus Safran Launchers is based on the space proven Radio Frequency Ion Technology (RIT).
European research into radio-frequency Ion propulsion was initially conducted in the 1960's by the University of Giessen, Germany. The predecessor of ASL, MBB, then joined the development team in 1970 and undertook the industrial leadership at the Lampoldshausen Centre.
Since 1970, the Lampoldshausen team has continued with the research, development and refinement of Radio-Frequency Ion Thruster technologies, associated propulsion systems, analytical tools and techniques, processes and materials technologies.
Lampoldshausen's first Radio-frequency Ion Thruster Assembly (RITA) was successfully demonstrated in space aboard ESA's European Retrievable Carrier EURECA, launched by the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1992. At that time, the RIT-10 system aboard EURECA provided a nominal specific impulse of 3,058 seconds.
ESA's Artemis spacecraft recovered by RITA-10 in 2003
More recently, following a launch failure, a RITA-10 propulsion system shifted ESA's ARTEMIS spacecraft from a too low orbit into GEO in 2002/2003. This recovery action lasted about one year and required some 6,300 hours continuous operation of the RITA-10 propulsion system - which saved the mission.
Working Principle and Advantages of RIT Technology
RIT Thruster Plume
The Radio frequency Ion Thruster uses a high-frequency electromagnetic field to ionise xenon gas atoms to form a plasma containing free 'light' electrons and 'heavy' positive ions. The heavy positive ions are then accelerated by an electrostatic field before being ejected to cause thrust.
After the ions have been ejected from the thruster, electrons are added from a neutraliser. The plasma is thereby neutralised which prevents the satellite from becoming charged.
Advantages of RIT technology include:
- Highest specific impulse offers substantial mass saving (>3000s)
- High performance at low complexity
- Reduced power processing unit mass
- Narrow beam divergence
- Robust design concept with a large domain of operational stability
- Large throttle range and adaptable to available electric power
- Excellent thrust stability and fast thrust response
- Highest growth potential with increasing electric power in near and medium-term future
Radio Frequency Ion Thruster Family
The RIT portfolio includes thrusters for a range of diverse space missions. Our RITμX thruster, the smallest in the range, is optimal for orbital manoeuvres of science mission requiring the highest precision. The RIT10Evo thruster is the optimum thruster for north south station keeping whilst the largest RIT2X thruster is the best mass saving solution for an all-electric propulsion satellite.
In the field of electric propulsion our customers can depend on full systems competence and expertise in the fields of system design engineering, system performance analysis, analysis of mission scenarios, technology trade-offs, material investigation, testing, failure mode simulation, electron beam investigations, dual thruster operation and component development.
A versatile miniaturized electric propulsion thruster optimised for high precision orbital manoeuvres
RIT μX is the smallest Radio frequency Ion Thruster of the electric propulsion thruster portfolio. An electric propulsion system based on RIT μX provides for advanced and challenging mission requirements thanks to special characteristics demonstrated during extensive testing, namely: complex thrust profiles, high dynamics and high resolution, thrust linearity, very low noise and very long thruster lifetime.
RIT μX ion thruster
RIT 10 EVO
The optimum thruster for north south station keeping in hybrid propulsion systems
RIT 10 EVO is the Radio frequency Ion Thruster with medium thrust level. It is ideally suited for north south station keeping of hybrid propulsion systems. RIT 10EVO is based on the RIT 10 which has flown successfully and flawlessly over 10 years.
RIT 10 EVO ion thruster
RIT 2X SERIES
The best mass saving solution for an all-electric spacecraft
The RIT 2X series consists of the largest Radio frequency Ion Thrusters of the electric propulsion portfolio. An electric propulsion system based on a RIT 2X thruster has distinct advantages including the highest possible thrust efficiency providing excellent specific impulse over wide thrust ranges and very efficient use of electrical energy.
RIT 2X series ion thruster
|RIT Thruster Family Performance Data|
Ion Thruster Brochure (PDF)
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