Space Propulsion & Advanced Concepts Engineering Laboratory

William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics

013 Aerospace and Energetics Research Building

University of Washington

Seattle, WA 98195


Multi-Mode Electric Propulsion

Multi-mode propulsion systems have been proposed that operate in both chemical (high thrust) and electric (high Isp) modes using a single thruster. The UW SPACE Lab is working to answer key questions that arise regarding the efficiency and scaling of electric thrusters operating on molecular propellant.

HiPeR-PIT (High Pulse Rate Pulsed Inductive Thruster)

Pulsed Inductive Thrusters (PITs) can efficiently ionize and acceleration propellant without the use of lifetime-limiting electrodes. By operating at high pulse rates (>1 kHZ) with steady propellant injection, the UW HiPeR-PIT seeks to significantly increase propellant utilization while eliminating the need for mechanical gas puff valves.   

Physics of Plasma-Assisted Aerocapture

Magnetoshell aerocapture systems use magnetized plasma to generate significantly more drag compared to deployable systems. The UW SPACE Lab is developing physical models to test the feasibility and scaling of magnetoshells. A novel experimental setup will enable the first laboratory testing of this technology in the relevant flow regime.

Water-Propellant Pulsed Plasma Thruster

Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs) are an electric propulsion technology with substantial flight heritage. PPTs have been proposed as a primary propulsion option for CubeSats, however, inefficiencies limit the achievable total impulse. In an effort to improve electrical and propellant utilization efficiencies, the UW SPACE Lab is exploring novel methods to inject water propellant into PPTs. 

Hall Thruster State-of-Health Monitoring

Hall thrusters exhibit a characteristic discharge current oscillation referred to as the breathing mode. The UW SPACE Lab is studying how the breathing mode oscillation evolves due to wear that occurs over the lifetime of the thruster. This research will enable the development of smart sensors capable of assessing Hall thruster state-of-health in orbit.

Non-Equilibrium Ion Beam Neutralization

The plasma self-bias effect is a non-equilibrium phenomenon that has recently been used to develop a neutralizer-free gridded-ion thruster. The UW SPACE Lab is exploring the fundamental behavior, scaling, and performance of this method for non-equilibrium ion beam neutralization.