Electric (plasma) propulsion devices have been used for applications such as station-keeping and orbit transfer, in place of chemical rockets, because they provide a higher specific impulse. Detailed studies are needed for improvement in performance and for assessment of spacecraft integration. Primarily, empirical experience has been the basis for design of these devices. Numerical methods are being developed that offer the possibility for optimization studies on the computer.
In this work, we collaborate with colleagues conducting experiments on electric propulsion thrusters in academia, in government laboratories (AFRL, NASA), and in industry.