Researchers from SENER Aeroespacial and the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), alongside French and German scientists and technologists, will validate the performances and operation of a new electric space propulsion technology that could be used in various types of satellites or small space platforms: the Helicon Plasma Thruster (HPT). The HPT is a new electric space propulsion technology that can provide a competitive alternative to the thrusters currently in use and one that awakens the interest of diverse companies and institutions. SENER Aeroespacial and the UC3M have already developed a HPT prototype, the first ignition of which was carried out in the Electric Propulsion Laboratory of the European Space Agency (ESA) in late 2015. Since then, various evolutions have been carried out on the first prototype design that have been tested in the University’s facilities. The latest design update will be captured in a new engineering model that is in development.
Now, the European Union has granted a project to a consortium led by SENER Aeroespacial which will continue the development of the HPT in the framework of the European Union Research and Innovation Programme, Horizon 2020 (GA870542). It is the project HIPATIA (HelIcon PlasmA Thruster for In-Space Applications), in which the Spanish scientific team SENER Aeroespacial-UC3M is going to collaborate with Airbus, the National Centre of Scientific Research, both in France, and the company Advanced Space Technologies in Germany. This consortium began its activity on the 1st of January 2020 and will work jointly for the next 30 months to test the functioning of the new prototype for its use in small space platforms, aiming to fit the needs of the market. As a first activity, representatives of all the organisations involved in the project met for the first time in the SENER Aeroespacial premises in Tres Cantos (Madrid) and in the UC3M on the 28th and 29th of January.