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Minicourse on Plasmas for Space Propulsion

Dates and Times: May 26-27 (Thursday afternoon and all-day Friday)

Chair: Dr. Justin Little, University of Washington, USA

A Minicourse on Plasmas for Space Propulsion will be offered at ICOPS2022 on May 26 – 27, 2022 (May 26th afternoon through all-day May 27th). During this Minicourse you will learn everything from the fundamental physics of plasma propulsion, to how plasma propulsion technologies are qualified for actual spaceflight. These topics are well-suited to the conference’s home in Seattle, WA, a hub of the aerospace industry!

The Minicourse is an excellent opportunity for early career researchers and students. There are grants available for early career researchers to attend this Minicourse. Please visit the Awards and Grants page of the ICOPS22 website to learn more. The deadline for applying grants is April 15, 2022.

Speakers of the Minicourse

Dr. John Brophy, NASA JPL
Title: History, Applications, and Breakthroughs in Electric Propulsion

Bio: John Brophy received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and an M.S. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University. In 1991, he led a U.S. team in the evaluation of Hall thruster technology in the Soviet Union leading to its wide-spread adoption in the West. He initiated the NSTAR Project that resulted in the successful demonstration of ion propulsion on NASA’s Deep Space 1 mission. He was responsible for the delivery of the Ion Propulsion System for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft resulting in the first-ever use of ion propulsion on a deep-space science mission. He co-led the Asteroid Retrieval Mission study at Caltech’s Keck Institute for Space Studies that resulted in NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission and became it’s chief engineer. He is a JPL Fellow and an AIAA Fellow. He is a recipient of the Ernst Stuhlinger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Electric Propulsion and the AIAA Wyld Propulsion Award. He is now the Project Systems Engineer for NASA’s VERITAS mission.


Dr. Dan Eckhardt, AFRL
Title: Beyond Xenon – Molecular Propellants for High Power EP

Bio: Dr. Dan Eckhardt is the Electric Propulsion Lead at the Air Force Research Laboratory, United States Space Force. He leads a team of S&Es in the development and sustainment of electric propulsion technologies for the USSF and other DoD Customers. In this role, Dr. Eckhardt coordinates various electric propulsion efforts from basic research to technology demonstrations across government agencies, industry and various academic institutions. He is also Principle Investigator for developing V&V and optimization techniques used in various rocket technologies.


Prof. Ken Hara, Stanford University
Title: Computational modeling of low-temperature magnetized plasmas for space propulsion applications

Bio: Ken Hara is an Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. He received a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering and a Graduate Certificate in Plasma Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan, and B.S. and M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the University of Tokyo. He was a Visiting Research Physicist at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory as a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellow. Prior to joining Stanford, he spent three years as a faculty member in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. Professor Hara’s research interests include electric propulsion, low temperature plasmas, plasma physics (plasma-wall interactions, plasma-wave interactions), data-driven modeling, and computational fluid and plasma dynamics. He is a recipient of the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society Graduate Scholarship Award, the Air Force Young Investigator Program Award, the Department of Energy Early Career Award, and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award.


Prof. Benjamin Jorns, NASA JPL
Title: Plasma Instabilities in Plasma Propulsion Systems

Bio: Dr. Benjamin Jorns is an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan and co-director of the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory. His research focuses on laser-based plasma diagnostics, nonlinear wave interactions, low-temperature plasma turbulence, and data-driven modeling of low temperature plasmas. He also recently has been investigating novel methods for in-space propulsion including field-reversed configuration thrusters, magnetic nozzles, and high-power Hall thrusters. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Michigan, Prof. Jorns was a technologist in the electric propulsion group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 2012-2016. He received his doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University in 2012.


Mr. Michael Patterson, Desert Works Propulsion (fmr. NASA GRC)
Title: Gridded Ion Thrusters

Bio: Mr. Patterson has 40 years’ experience in spacecraft electric propulsion (EP), including over 37 years with NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland OH where he served as Senior Technologist for In-Space Propulsion until retirement in December 2021. During his NASA tenure Mr. Patterson developed the NSTAR ion thruster flown on JPL’s Deep Space 1 and Dawn missions, as well as the NEXT ion thruster and propulsion system launched on APL’s DART mission in 2021. He also actively worked to transition EP technologies to commercial and National Security Space missions. In 2022 he founded Desert Works Propulsion LLC to accelerate fielding of high-performance EP in support of U.S. commercial and military missions, providing consulting, design, and manufacturing.


Dr. James Polk, NASA JPL
Title: Hollow Cathodes for Electric Thrusters

Bio: Dr. Polk is a Principal Engineer in the Propulsion, Materials, and Thermal Engineering Section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he has worked for the last 32 years. He is also a Lecturer in the Aerospace Engineering Department at Caltech, where he has taught the graduate space propulsion class for the last 20 years. He received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University. Dr. Polk is an expert in the area of high-current cathode physics, electric thruster wear processes, high power plasma thrusters, and the application of probabilistic methods to analysis of engine service life. He also has considerable experience in the development of arcjet thrusters and Hall thrusters.


Dr. Yevgeny Raitses, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Title: Hall thrusters: fundamentals, applications, variations, limitations

Bio: Yevgeny Raitses is a Principal Research Physicist at the US DOE Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). He received his PhD from the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology in 1997 before coming to PPPL in 1998. He has made significant contributions to the field of experimental plasma physics with applications to plasma thrusters, processing and synthesis plasmas, and plasma diagnostics. He has over 200 publications on these topics. His current research is focused on plasma-wall interactions, control of cross-field discharges, and electron-beam generated plasmas for plasma propulsion and materials processing. He is the Head of the PPPL Hall Thruster Experiment (http://htx.pppl.gov) and the Director of the Princeton Collaborative Research Facility (http://pcrf.pppl.gov). Dr. Raitses is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is also an Associate Editor of Journal of Applied Physics.


Dr. Sedina Tsikata, CNRS, ICARE
Title: Non-invasive plasma diagnostics – a key role in electric propulsion

Bio: Sedina Tsikata is a researcher with the CNRS, the French National Center for Scientific Research, at the ICARE laboratory in Orléans, France. A graduate of MIT and Ecole Polytechnique, she performed postdoctoral research funded by the French Space Agency (CNES) on Hall thruster turbulence. Her research focuses on the study of phenomena in magnetized plasmas, such as plasma instabilities and self-organization, and the development of advanced diagnostics for the characterization of plasma environments relevant to space propulsion, plasma-assisted deposition, and particle accelerators. She is the recipient of distinctions awarded by the French Physics Society and the CNRS.


Dr. Peter Turchi, Compact Fusion Systems
Title: Fusion Propulsion: Field of the Future

Bio:Peter J. Turchi received his professional education (BSE, 1967, MA, 1969, PhD, 1970) in aerospace and mechanical sciences at Princeton University. As Chief of Plasma Technology at the Naval Research Laboratory, he developed the concept of controlled fusion by plasma compression with megagauss fields. He has been a member and past chair of the AIAA Electric Propulsion Technical Committee and the IEEE Standing Committee on Pulsed Power Science and Technology, and served as President of the Electric Rocket Propulsion Society. Dr. Turchi received the IEEE Erwin Marx Award for pulsed electrical power science and technology, the ERPS Award for service to electric propulsion, and the A.D. Sakharov medal, the A.I. Pavlovsky prize and the Megagauss Award for his contributions to megagauss physics and technology. He is presently Vice President for Technology at Compact Fusion Systems, Inc., Santa Fe, NM. Dr. Turchi is a Fellow of both the AIAA and IEEE.


Dr. Dieter M. Zube, Aerojet Rocketdyne
Title: Engineering Aspects of Electric Spacecraft Propulsion: Qualifying Laboratory Concepts for Flight Operations

Bio: Dr. Zube is Aerojet Rocketdyne’s (AR) Technical Fellow for Electric Spacecraft Propulsion System Design and Integration, working out of AR’s Redmond, Washington, facility. AR’s Redmond facility is one of the primary commercial companies that pioneered flight use of Electric Propulsion since the 1980s and that is still at the forefront of this technology. Dieter joined AR 25 years ago in the spring of 1997 to work on the development, qualification, production, and flight operation of thermal arcjet thrusters. Since then, he has gained experience with all current types of Electric Propulsion and AR Redmond’s chemical propulsion systems. In 2019, he was selected as AR’s companywide Electric Propulsion Engineering Fellow. He has been involved in Electric Propulsion research, development, and flight operations since 1988, earning his “Diplom-Ingenieur” degree (master of engineering) and aerospace engineering PhD at the Universität Stuttgart in Germany in 1990 and 1995, respectively. His research work for both degrees centered on Electric Propulsion plasmas. He is an Affiliate Associate Professor at the University of Washington, where he teaches spacecraft propulsion classes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.



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