Sarah Keegan Headquarters, Washington, D.C. March 14, 1991 (Phone: 202/453-2754) Linda S.

Ellis Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio (Phone: 216/433-2900) RELEASE: 91-40 ARCJETS YIELD BETTER PERFORMANCE, LONGER SATELLITE LIFE NASA's Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, has the lead role in developing the arcjet thruster technology recently selected for stationkeeping use on AT&T's Telstar 4 communications satellites. Arcjet systems offer a significant improvement in propellant use over chemical and other electrically-augmented thrusters. The savings realized can be used to increase a satellite's on-orbit lifetime or payload mass. Alternatively, launch mass can be decreased so that a smaller rocket booster can be used. The arcjet research and technology program at Lewis Research Center began in 1983. A major objective was to bring advanced electric propulsion to operational status. This included component research necessary to demonstrate the required performance, life and integration issues associated with the arcjet system. In an arcjet, a direct current electrical arc is used to heat the decomposition products of hydrazine propellant to very high temperatures. Although the arc core temperature can reach 31,123 degrees F, the nozzle walls are protected by a cool gas boundary layer.

The hot, slightly ionized gas exits the rocket nozzle at an average velocity 1.5 to 2 times that attained in conventional thrusters. For example, the 1.8 kW arcjet systems developed by Rocket Research Co. (RRC), Redmond, Wash., for the Telstar 4 program, provide a specific impulse (thrust divided by the propellant consumption rate) of about 500 seconds. - more This compares to a state-of-the-art resistojet system (another type of electrical thruster) that would provide 300 seconds of specific impulse for the same task. The 1.8 kW design is modeled closely after a flight-type 1.4 kW system developed by RRC under a Lewis-sponsored program. Switching to arcjet systems for north-south stationkeeping on a geosynchronous communications satellite can reduce propellant requirements by several hundred pounds. This savings can extend satellite lifetime by more than 50 percent or allow the satellite to shift to a less powerful, less expensive launch vehicle. The arcjet technology developed by NASA's Lewis Research Center and U. S. industry is the most advanced in the world. The Telstar 4 thrusters are the only arcjets accepted for operational use on a spacecraft. Lewis and industry continue to study arcjet thruster systems and their interactions with host spacecraft systems. Results to date suggest that electromagnetic interference with satellite systems should be minimal and that there will be no problem sending radio signals through the thruster exhaust plume. Lewis researchers also are investigating a range of power options to enhance the versatility of hydrazine arcjet technology. Examples include low power (1 kW) systems for power-limited satellites and high specific impulse systems for advanced communications satellites. The use of high specific impulse hydrogen arcjet systems also is being explored for primary propulsion. - end NOTE TO EDITORS: A photograph is available to illustrate this

release by calling the Audio Visual Branch at 202/453-8375. The order number for color photographs is 90-HC-255; for black and white prints, 90-H-220.