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Postgraduate research project

Development of a high performance all-printed propulsion system (ALPS) for VLEO DiskSat

Competition funded
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Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
1st class honours degree
(View full entry requirements)
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

This PhD project aims to develop a high-performance version of ALPS (ALl-printed Propulsion System to maintain attitude of VLEO (Very Low Earth Orbit).

VLEO refers to orbits between 250 and 450 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, and offers an attractive link budget, a reduced radiation environment and lower latency. Therefore, VLEO satellite technology is currently set to become a global competitor to traditional landline communications service providers. As satellites and debris objects alike are pulled from orbit within a short period in VLEO, it is a sustainable orbital regime for long-term space development.

DiskSat is a plate-shaped satellite 1m in diameter and 2 cm thick having the ability to fly continuously in a low-drag orientation. As the DiskSat has an unprecedentedly high power-to-mass ratio and low aerodynamic drag, it can provide an ideal platform for telecommunication missions in VLEOs.

A propulsion system is an essential component of the DiskSat to be used in VLEO missions to compensate for its orbital decay losses and sustain its orbital altitude. However, the thin nature of DiskSat platform makes difficult to use conventional electric propulsion systems.

In this project, the candidate will develop a propulsion system for the DiskSat by adapting the ALPS concept. ALPS is a standalone electric propulsion system based on a cluster of thin-layer vacuum arc thrusters. Due to its innovative form factor, the ALPS can be an ideal propulsion system for the DiskSat. Through this PhD project, the candidate will develop an engineering model (EM) of high-performance version of the ALPS for the DiskSat and evaluating its performance for future in-orbit demonstration missions.

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