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Efficient Batch-microfabricated Hardware for Miniaturized Spacecraft

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Myriam Ouberai.

Miniaturized spacecraft (1 – 10 Kg) are an interesting alternative to conventional inspace hardware to substantially reduce space mission costs and significantly increase launch rates. Miniaturized satellites can be used to implement very flexible and versatile dense constellations, capable of missions such as real-time global surveillance, communications, and large-aperture interferometry. One of the challenges in implementing scaled-down satellites is the development of subsystems compatible with the size and weight constraints posed by spacecraft miniaturization, without sacrificing functionality; microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) could enable a space technological revolution by making possible the production of low-cost, batch-fabricated, and rugged miniaturized satellite hardware with performance on par of better than the state of the art. This talk will focus on two examples of MEMS space propulsion hardware in development at the Velasquez group at MIT ; in both cases, large arrays of scaled-down elements operate in parallel to efficiently deliver high and uniform throughput. The first example is an array of electrospray emitters that can be used as space thruster; these rockets do not require external neutralization and can efficiently span a wide range of Isp and thrust compatible with many miniaturized spacecraft missions. The second example is a massively multiplexed field emission cathode that can be used as neutralizer of plasma-based electric rockets and that can operate in low Earth orbit (LEO) without degradation; these devices do not consume mass flowrate and therefore, they can be used in scaled-down satellites. Luis Fernando Velásquez-García is a principal investigator with the MIT ’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL). He leads a group that conducts fundamental and applied research on systems composed of arrays of miniaturized elements that exploit high electrostatic field phenomena; his group’s work focuses on micro/nanostructures that harness high electric field phenomena for applications such as high-throughput nanomanufacturing, energy, space, and healthcare (

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This talk is part of the Nanoscience Centre Seminar Series series.

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