GRADUATE SEMINAR - "All-Electric Propulsion for Next-Generation Satellites", by Dr. Atri Dutta, Princeton University

Education - Colloquium - WPI Only

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
2:00 PM-3:00 PM

Salisbury Labs
SL 115 (Kinnicutt Hall)

Worcester, MA 01609
Google Maps - MapQuest


The superior propellant management of electric thrusters (compared to their chemical counterparts) promise significant reduction of operational costs during orbital transfer(s) by a single satellite or by a team of satellites. Traditionally, satellites deployed in the Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) have been designed to transfer to their station using onboard chemical engines; the use of electric thrusters has been limited to station-keeping. The ability to perform electric orbit-raising enables the development of all-electric satellites that can execute all propulsive tasks using electric thrusters. Fuel saved during deployment of such satellites can significantly reduce operational costs for the space industry. Naturally, in recent years, there is a growing interest among satellite operators across the globe in procuring all-electric satellites.

A major challenge associated with the deployment of all-electric satellites in GEO is the long transfer time due to the low thrust generated by electric thrusters. A long transit through the Van Allen belts surrounding the Earth during electric orbit-raising exposes the satellite to hazardous radiation that cause damage to the solar arrays and possibly to other electronics as well. In this talk, we discuss a new mathematical framework to determine electric orbit-raising trajectories that minimize the radiation damage within the Van Allen belts. The developed tool can be used by mission designers in order to investigate favorable designs for all-electric satellites satisfying specific mission requirements. We specifically present designs of power and propulsion subsystems of telecommunication satellites that can be deployed in GEO within 6 months by using a maximum power of 6 kW for small satellites and 25 kW for large ones. Finally, we consider the problem of determining optimal maneuvers by a team of all-electric satellites. We present a multi-disciplinary optimization methodology for determining optimal maneuvers for distributed servicing of all-electric satellite constellations. Benefits in terms of mass savings over baseline chemical operations are also presented.


Atri Dutta is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University. All his degrees are in Aerospace Engineering with Ph.D. (2009) and M.S. (2005) from Georgia Institute of Technology and B.Tech. (2002) from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. During his doctoral and post-doctoral studies at Georgia Tech, he developed multi-disciplinary optimization techniques to plan maneuvers for a system of multiple aircraft/spacecraft. At Princeton, he was investigating new designs for all-electric telecommunication satellites. He will be joining the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Wichita State University, as an Assistant Professor in January 2014. His research interests are optimal control, astrodynamics, spacecraft design, mixed-integer programming, and optimization of air and space operations.

Suggested Audiences: College

Phone: 508-831-6405

Last Modified: November 12, 2013 at 1:35 PM

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