​Panel discussions at the EPIC workshop, London. Photo: Massimo Panarotto

Report from the EPIC workshop on space electric propulsion

With focus on Electric Propulsion Technologies, the 2018 EPIC Workshop took place in Westminster, London this October. The workshop, now on its third year, gathered around 80 delegates from across Europe, mostly from companies and European space organizations, such as ESA. Massimo Panarotto, senior researcher from Systems Engineering Design Research Group​, Chalmers University of Technology was on site and here is his report:
Electric propulsion is a game changer”, this was the opening by Jose Gonzalez del Amo (European Space
Agency – ESA) at the third EPIC workshop, held in London from the 15th to the 17th of October 2018. 

For going to mars and beyond, we need more efficient means of transportation in space. For example, chemical propulsion (used to propel the space shuttle in 1969) is too costly and has the big disadvantage to consume a lot of propellant to reach long distances. Electric propulsion represents a promising alternative, since we can use much less propellant. Furthermore, we can make use of the only energy source available in the solar system: the sun.    

At the same time, the space industry is in the middle of a transition. New actors such as OneWeb are planning to launch thousands of satellites around the earth to provide low cost - yet fast - internet to the whole world. Electric propulsion is appealing for these business markets as well, since it can reduce costs tremendously.

Despite these good premises, electric propulsion still needs innovation and development to clearly become a competitive option for the space industry. EPIC (Electric Propulsion Innovation and Competitiveness) has the objective to foster such innovations.   

The EPIC Workshop started by giving updates from the projects funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 Space Strategic Research Cluster. One of these is the CHEOPS project, where the Systems Engineering Design Research Group at Chalmers is actively involved, supporting nine industrial partners to analyze the cost and value of alternative architectures and technologies for electric propulsion.   

Idris Habbassi (photo above), Safran Aircraft Engines and project leader in CHEOPS, presenting the results of the project
The workshop followed by very interesting panel discussions, focused on two recurring ‘hot topics’ for the electric propulsion community: 
1) electric propulsion technologies for small satellites and new markets and 
2) new strategies for electric propulsion qualification. 
The last day of the workshop focused on a number of exiting technical presentations.

The next EPIC workshop will be in 2019 in Noordwijk (The Netherlands), one of the ‘homes’ of the European Space Agency (ESA)​

The CHEOPS (Consortium for Hall Effect Orbital Propulsion System) project proposes to develop three different Hall Effect Thruster (HET) Electric Propulsion Systems (EPS), each with specific requirements leading to specific improvements at system and subsystem levels, in order to serve different application fields or orbits.

Chalmers role in CHEOPS:
Chalmers is involved in Cheops in Work Package 2 (WP2- “Strategies for value creation and cost reduction”) and targets objectives #5 and #6 of CHEOPS 
  • Such objectives state the target to reduce cost of solutions by at least 30% compared to existing solution. 
  • However, all technologies and concepts to be demonstrated in CHEOPS are also intended to provide performance enhancements, and in several cases also new functionalities. 
  • The comparison with existing concepts is therefore not straightforward, since CHEOPS is not only a cost reduction initiative. 
  • The need for a cost and value modelling strategy that acknowledges the enhancements and changes of the product compared to current generation technologies is therefore clear.​

For more info, contact:
Senior Researcher, Systems Engineering Design Research Group
Dept. Industrial and Materials Science
Theme leader Product Development 4.0 at Wingquist Laboratory

Published: Sat 20 Oct 2018.