New Transatlantic Partnership Targets Hall Thrusters for Spacecraft Electric Propulsion

A computer generated image showing a depiction of a future electric spacecraft engine featuring hall thrusters developed by Pulsar Fusion. (Image: Pulsar Fusion)

Pulsar Fusion has announced a new trans-Atlantic partnership funded by the U.K. Space Agency (UKSA) between the space propulsion system manufacturer and the University of Michigan. Under the new collaboration, the U.K. Space Agency will develop a relationship with the University of Michigan's Plasma Dynamics and Electric Propulsion Lab.

Electric propulsion and specifically "Hall effect thrusters" are a key technology enabler for spacecraft. According to Pulsar, the Plasma Dynamics and Electric Propulsion lab is among the leading university research centers in hall thrusters in the world.

NASA has identified a strategic need over the next decade for electric propulsion, in particular in the field of high-power electric propulsion and propellants. Hall thrusters are finding application in a vast array of different spacecraft missions, including geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions. This includes robotic rendezvous missions such as those developed by Northrop Grumman and Astroscale, in particular for spacecraft de-orbiting, and interplanetary missions such as the Lunar Gateway Space Station and the NASA Psyche mission.

Until now, there has been no such collaboration between the UK and USA on Hall thruster research. This new partnership of leading expertise in Hall thrusters, will commence such a collaboration for the first time. This partnership will be funded from the first phase of the UK Space Agency’s £20 million ($25.4 million in US dollars) International Bilateral Fund and is the second project awarded to Pulsar Fusion by the UKSA.

"As a manufacturer of space engines, there are regulatory challenges in being based in the UK, but England has a fantastic talent pool and our scientists deserve to be at the forefront of these emerging technologies. This is another key U.S. partnership for Pulsar, we continue to pursue best-in-class innovation, and this is particularly exciting given the global commercial interest in these engines. Following last month’s announcement of our Nuclear Fusion propulsion work with Princeton Satellite Systems, we remain optimistic that companies like Pulsar can continue to advance our technologies whilst remaining in the UK with access to unparalleled scientific resources, " said Pulsar Fusion CEO, Richard Dinan.