Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Across the Universe - Rocket Engine Innovation

It takes energy to keep a satellite positioned in space, or to move a spacecraft to it's destination. It also takes ASRI brainpower from Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.

Testing the Camila at ASRI's Rocket Propulsion Lab.

When the iron curtain came down, a scientific opportunity emerged. World-class scientists were among the millions of Russians that were free to find America. Empowered by cultural diversity and open to newcomers, Technion's Asher Space Research Institute (ASRI) seized the moment and recruited Prof. Alexander Kapulkin. Today, he is the mastermind of the world's most efficient, fast and effective rocket engine, the CAMILA.

Downstairs at ASRI, the future of earth and space science is being born. In the new Rocket Propulsion Lab, suspended within a huge stainless steel vacuum cylinder, the hand-sized electric-propulsion hall thruster CAMILLA is undergoing tests. The lab took form through the combined skills of three immigrants from the former USSR. Kapulkin, his student from the University of Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine Maxim Rubinovitch, and mechanical designer Dr. Vladimir Balabanov, who came to Israel 20 years ago from Omsk.

CAMILA includes a revolutionary fuel-delivery design and an innovative magnetic field configuration that propels the engine faster. This innovation consumes less fuel, thus increasing engine efficiency. The impact will be less size, weight, and cost of small satellites. The new lab is set to be the only plasma process monitoring facility in Israel. CAMILA? The three scientists hope to experience her Sputnik moment within the next two years, when she will take her maiden voyage to propel her first microsatellite through space.