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Spacecraft Propulsion Basics | Types of Propulsion Systems

This page describes basics of Spacecraft Propulsion Systems. It mentions classification or types of Propulsion Systems. It mentions functions of spacecraft propulsion systems.

Definition:
The mechanism or systems used to provide forces and torques to the spacecraft in the space in order to transfer, position and orient the spacecraft is known as propulsion systems.

Functions of spacecraft propulsion systems

As mentioned in the definition, following are the functions of spacecraft propulsion systems.
• It transfers the spacecraft hence it is used for interplanetary travel.
• It positions the spacecraft hence it is used for orbit control of spacecraft in the space.
• It orients the spacecraft hence it is used for attitude control of spacecraft in the space.

Following are the characteristics of spacecraft propulsion systems. These are essential for attitude and orbit operational requirements of the spacecraft or satellite.
• Very high velocity increment capabilities.
• Low thrust levels with lower acceleration levels.
• Continuous operation mode for orbit control.
• Pulsed operation mode for attitude control.
• Predictable, accurate and repeatable performance.
• Reliable, Leak-free long time operation
• Minimum and predictable thrust exhaust impingement effects

Types of Propulsion Systems | Classification of Propulsion Systems

Types of Propulsion Systems

Following are the types of propulsion systems used in a Spacecraft. These types are based on source of energy used for ejection of the propellent. The figure-1 depicts tree chart of the classifications.
• Chemical Propulsion:
This type uses heat energy produced due to chemical reaction. It produces gases at high temperature and pressure in combustion chamber. These gases are accelerated through nozzle device and ejected from the spacecraft system at high exit velocity in order to produce thrust force.
• Electric Propulsion:
This type uses electric or electro-magnetic energy to eject the matter at higher velocity in order to produce thrust force.
• Nuclear Propulsion:
This type uses energy from nuclear reactor to heat gases. These gases are accelerated through the nozzle and consecutively ejected from the spacecraft system at very high exit velocity in order to produce thrust force.



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