Spring 2020, Santa Rosa, CA. — The Cameron Group, Inc., team has patented innovations that increase the thrust and specific impulse of Hall Effect Thrusters (HETs). The team is currently negotiating with other firms interested in partnering to qualify and manufacture the advanced HET units.
HETs perform a type of Electric Propulsion (EPROP) that uses electrostatic force to propel a stream of ionized gas with dramatically greater specific impulse than that of chemical thrusters. While HET’s produce less thrust, they can produce thrust over a much greater period and using a fraction as much propellant mass. The reduced weight permits greater payloads or decreased booster propellant. HETs fall into two categories: lower-powered thrusters for station-keeping maneuvers to counter friction of the upper atmosphere, and higher-powered thrusters for operations such as boosting space vehicles to higher orbits or propelling them on interplanetary missions.
The smaller thrust has a cost: It increases the time required for orbital maneuvers. For example, the time to boost from low earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit increases from a couple of weeks for chemical boosters to months for ion propulsion. This means lost revenue for users of commercial space vehicles such as communications satellites. Therefore, users such as NASA are looking for ways to boost either the power or the efficiency of EPROP technologies.
Pratt & Whitney’s T-140 and T-220HT models were originally developed and patented under the leadership of Dr. Ned Britt, at that time the CEO of Space Power, Inc. (SPI). Now, Cameron’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Britt, with other innovators formerly from SPI, has patented an improvement to HET designs that significantly increases the thrust-to-power ratio. Greater thrust for a given input (propellant and electrical energy) can mean, depending on the mission, reduced propellant costs, faster deployment of the payload, or faster trips to distant solar system objects.
The Cameron team’s innovations not only improve high-power operation, but also broaden the usable range of thrust so that the same HET unit can power both station-keeping and boost operations.
The Cameron HET Team includes:
- Dr. Ned Britt — Cameron Chief Scientist, HET patent holder
- Dr. Ron Clark — HET Advanced Technology Promotion
- Dr. Bill Webster — HET Advanced Technology Promotion, HET Controls Engineering Lead
- Prof. Mitchell Walker, PhD — HET Testing Manager; prof., Georgia Tech
- Dr. Vince Teofilo — Plasma Physics Specialist
- Glenn Koehler — HET Systems & Test Engineer
For more information, or to express your interest in the Cameron HET or the planned demonstration tests, please contact Dr. Bill Webster by telephone at 1.925.895.3275, or contact Cameron via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.