Attraction of the leading scientists to Russian institutions of higher learning, research organizations of the governmental academies of sciences, and governmental research centers of the Russian Federation

Laboratory of High-Frequency Ionic Propulsion Systems

About the laboratry

This laboratory was established as part of a scientific research project supported with a monetary grant awarded by the Government of the Russian Federation under a grant competition designed to provide governmental support to scientific research projects implemented under the supervision of the world's leading scientists at Russian institutions of higher learning, research institutions of the governmental academies of sciences and governmental research centers of the Russian Federation (Resolution of the RF Government No.220 of April 9, 2010).

Link to official website

Grant Agreement No.: 11.G34.31.0022

Host institution of higher learning:
State educational institution of higher professional education "Moscow Aviation Institute" (State Technical University)

Scientific research area:
Space research and technologies

Project goal:
To develop high-impulse high-frequency plasma-dynamic ionic engines for spacecraft (HFIE) with a high specific propulsion impulse.

Anticipated project outputs:
1. The project will help create a modern world-class experimental research facility specializing in the development and testing of high-frequency plasma-dynamic ionic engines for spacecraft (HFIE);
2. The project will help develop technologies required to build and research advanced types of HFIE that have no analogues in Russia;
3. The project will help identify and develop new materials whose application will help optimize HFIE operation parameters;
4. The project will help acquire new data ensuring a high efficiency of energy input and transformation in the conditions of a high-frequency discharge for various devices and clarify the theoretical ideas of the processes that are characteristic of this type of discharges;
5. The project will help create mathematical models of the working processes in the engine elements that will make it possible to calculate the processes inside the engine when it operates for an extended period of time;
6. The project will formulate recommendations on the output capacity and types of the promising engine models for various ballistic objectives of spacecraft;
7. The project will research small, medium, and high output capacity and build corresponding utility models for their subsequent industrial production;
8. The project will formulate recommendations on integrating an HFIE with spacecraft elements and subsystems, including radio-technical ones;
9. The project will help create sources of charged particles that can be used in ionic-plasma technology processes with the view to form nano- and micro-structures and to modify the surfaces of products of various designations.

Leading scientist

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Leading scientist's full name: Loeb, Horst Wolfgang

Link to leading scientist's profile

Academic degree and title:
Doctor of sciences, professor

Job title:
Professor at the University of Giessen (Germany)

Field of scientific interests:
1. Plasma physics
2. Electric spacecraft engines

Key scientific achievements:
- The leading scientist has made an outstanding contribution to the theory and technology of creation of electric spacecraft engines;
- He has developed the physical and technological foundations of high-frequency ionic engines.

Scientific recognition:
- Member of the German Physics Society (DPG);
- Member of the German Aerospace Society (DGLR);
- Member of the international Society for the Advancement of Space Travel.

Awards and distinctions:
- G. Obert medal from the International Council for Space Achievements;
- Electric Rocket Propulsion Society medal for outstanding achievements in the field of electric engines;
- Germany's first class federal medallion


The laboratory's three testing benches have been upgraded. They have been outfitted with modern high-vacuum oil-free equipment and specialized electric power supply and HFIE control systems, as well as ionic sources whose capacity ranges from 0.35 to 35 kW. The project team has developed and experimental state-of-the-art complex to research physical processes and test high-output ionic engines whose exhaustion rate amounts to 235 thousand horsepower. This is Russia's only testing bench equipped with an echo-free chamber designed to research and measure electromagnetic radiation of electric rocket engines. The project team has conducted an experimental investigation of the integral parameters of laboratory HFIE models and analyzed distribution of local parameters of plasma in the engine's exhaust stream.

Based on the theoretical and experimental research completed by the project team, the following engines have been developed:

• HFIE-45, designed for a transport and power supply module with a nuclear-powered propulsion system that is being developed in compliance with the Presidential industry modernization program in the spacecraft area;
• HFIE -16, designed for correction of orbits of geostationary telecommunications satellites.
The project team has developed the foundations of the technological processes required to manufacture critical HFIE elements using special alloys, composite and ceramic materials. Models of these elements have been tested as part of the small-sized laboratory HFIE models. The scientists have developed a complex of physical and mathematical models of the principal HFIE nodes, as well as the physical and technological foundations governing the development, design, and manufacture of HFIE.

The scientists have completed a ballistic analysis required to use high-output HFIE as part of transport energy modules to:

• Launch spacecraft to high-energy near-space orbits, as well as to planets and their satellites, including manned expeditions to Mars;
• Adjust the orbits of dangerous asteroids;
• Implement the "Reusable inter-orbital tow-vehicle" and "Reusable moon tow-vehicle" programs, etc.

The research results achieved by the laboratory have been used in the implementation of such important space projects as "Transport-energy module with a nuclear-power propulsion system", "Interhelio-probe", "Ballistic analysis of interplanetary flight schemes for Moon and Mars exploration", "Impact of electric rocket engines on the structural elements and onboard radio-systems", etc. These research and development projects have been implemented by the HFIE laboratory under contracts executed by and between the Moscow Aviation Institute and some of the leading "Roskosmos" enterprises, such as the Research Center named after M. V. Keldysh and Research and Production Association named after S. A. Lavochkin.

The laboratory employs a great number of young specialists represented by engineers, undergraduate and graduate students.

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