Harry Sandman – 2016

University of Surrey

I have completed my BSc in Space Engineering at the University of Surrey this September. The finances that the Old Wandsworth Memorial Trust gave me at the start of the course really benefited me in my studies. I have achieved an overall grade of 65% and am now looking to start my career in the space industry. The degree gave me an overall  understanding of how satellites work, are designed, constructed and tested. I also  continued specialising in electric propulsion, helping characterising the performance a new type of plasma thruster, the Halo Thruster.

Thrusters are used to move and orientate a space craft in space. Electric propulsion uses electrical energy to accelerate a propellant out of the thruster. Plasma is the 4th state of matter, above a gas, and 99% of the universe is made out of it like the Sun. A plasma is a hot gas where each atom has so much energy some of its electrons get stripped off of the atom. When an electron is stripped off an atom it leaves the atom with a positive charge and the electron is negatively charged. In the presence of electromagnetic fields these charged particles feel a force upon them. The Halo thruster uses an electromagnetic field to accelerate the charged particles (plasma) out of the thruster.

Electric Propulsion devices are far more fuel efficient than their conventional chemical counterparts as they accelerate the fuel to speeds at least an order of magnitude higher than the chemical ones. Despite this they provide many orders of magnitude less of thrust (mN) than chemical rockets and are hence no good at sending a rocket into space. Once in orbit however, the gravitational forces acting upon the craft are far less so fuel efficiency becomes more important than thrust produced as satellites can’t be refuelled and the time it has to complete any manoeuvre is far longer. Companies have been developing plasma thruster for a long time and hopefully I will help continue their development in the future.

 

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