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The Microwave Thermal Thruster Concept

Parkin, Kevin L. G. and DiDomenico, Leo D. and Culick, Fred E. C. (2004) The Microwave Thermal Thruster Concept. In: Beamed energy propulsion : Second International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion : Sendai, Japan, 20-23 October 2003. American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings. No.702. American Institute of Physics , Melville, NY, pp. 418-429. ISBN 0-7354-0175-6.

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The microwave thermal thruster heats propellant via a heat-exchanger then expands it through a rocket nozzle to produce thrust. The heat-exchanger is simply a microwave-absorbent structure through which propellant flows in small channels. Nuclear thermal thrusters are based on an analogous principle, using neutrons rather than microwaves, and have experimentally demonstrated specific impulses exceeding 850 seconds. A microwave equivalent will likely have a similar specific impulse, since both nuclear and microwave thermal thrusters are ultimately constrained by material thermal limits, rather than the energy-density limits of chemical propellants. We present the microwave thermal thruster concept by characterizing a novel variation for beamed-energy launch. In reducing the thruster concept to practice, the enabling physical process is microwave absorption by refractory materials, and we examine semiconductor and susceptor-based approaches to achieving this absorption within the heat-exchanger structure.

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Additional Information:©2004 American Institute of Physics We would like to thank Prof. William Bridges, Prof. David Rutledge, Prof. Hans Hornung, Mr. Tobias Kippenburg, Mr. Sean Spillane, Dr. Mark Barton, and Dr. Jordin Kare for helpful conversations. We would also like to thank the Caltech President’s Fund for funding this work under grant PF-495 / NASA contract NAS7-1407.
Subject Keywords:space vehicles; propulsion; microwave devices; masers; atmospheric electromagnetic wave propagation; plasma production; power measurement; force measurement
Series Name:American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings
Issue or Number:702
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:PARaipcp04b
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:3304
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:26 May 2006
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 19:55

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