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The University of Southampton

Research project: Magdrive prototype thruster development

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This project aims to model metallic plasma flows for improving the performance of a revolutionary space propulsion systems for small satellite, called “MagDrive”. This will help Magdrive to develop an in-space demonstration model and commercialise the new technology for the global space sector.

The University of Southampton will work with the Magdrive Ltd to develop prototypes for a new electric plasma space propulsion system, which will offer significantly improved thrust compared to other electric propulsion systems, while offering high efficiencies, which chemical propulsion systems lack. In this project, Magdrive’s current prototype hardware will be tested using the University of Southampton’s vacuum chamber and experimental expertise. Dr. Min Kwan Kim will provide his experience of magneto-hydrodynamic simulations to produce computer simulations of the plasma dynamics inside the thruster, which can be compared to experimental results to ensure the prototype is working as intended.

Based on this experimental and simulation evidence, the Magdrive team and the University of Southampton will develop ideas for an advanced thruster which offers improved plasma confinement, efficiency and thrust. MHD simulations performed by the University of Southampton and COMSOL simulations performed by the Magdrive team can be used to validate concepts. Following this process, Magdrive will build a new prototype and the project team will validate these improvements by repeating the experiments as before, using the University of Southampton’s vacuum chamber.

Successful testing will allow Magdrive to develop an in-space demonstration of the technology and offer the technology to customers. The small size of the Magdrive thruster allows smaller satellites to be used for significantly more applications, thereby reducing the cost of space applications and the barriers to entry to this industry. This in turn will allow smaller companies, start-ups and universities to conduct missions in space on smaller budgets, helping to drive UK innovation in space.

Associated research themes

Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

Related research groups

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