Inexpensive. Powerful. Safe.

Water is an excellent source of power for the future

ConstantQ™ Water propulsion offers: 

  • High performance
  • Non-toxic (low safety risk)
  • Ease of transport / handle on ground
  • Ease of fueling / refueling
  • Low handling and
  • Manufacturing costs
  • Easily added to ride share 
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Powerful thrust

Miles Space now offers low cost primary or secondary thrusters  to satisfy the pending FCC regulations on maneuverability.

The ConstantQ™ family of thrusters use a pulsed electrostatic cycle to enable a variety of Earth-orbiting and deep space missions using water propellant. Test results show water’s vapor pressure and its plasma speciation are especially useful to this operating cycle.

A ConstantQ™ thruster has:

  • a plasma formation region containing spark electrodes
  • two exhaust ports, each ringed by acceleration electrodes
  • a single power supply providing spark and acceleration power

 

Vapor enters the plasma formation region, expanding and changing pressure on its path towards the exhaust ports. Paschen’s law ensures a spark occurs within the vapor at the point where the supply voltage meets the pressure on the Paschen curve.

Each exhaust port is ringed with high voltage electrodes. One exhaust port’s voltages act to focus and extract positive ions from the plasma. The other affects electrons.

Electrons, being far less massive than ions, leave the plasma before ions, generating thrust from their interaction with the acceleration electrodes. Once outside the thruster, the electrons form a virtual cathode that pulls upon the ions remaining within the thruster.

As the ions leave, thrust is obtained from acceleration electrodes. However, the ions also derive kinetic energy from the virtual cathode, slowing the exhaust electrons and even causing electrons to flow back toward the thruster. This gives an increased acceleration voltage upon the ions, expanding the classic Child-Langmuir limits for space-charge flow rate and thrust density.

As the ions exit the thruster, they meet the returning electrons, neutralizing the plasma. With water vapor, the interface between exiting ions and returning electrons appears as a white-hot sphere 5-8mm outside the ion’s exhaust port. This phenomenon is believed to be due to the presence of multiple ion species with different velocity profiles. In the image below, the two exhaust ports are shown, with the electron port on the left and the ion port on the right. Note the distinctly different exhaust appearances of the two.



A resonance occurs between the incoming gas pressure, spark push back, and plasma drain rate through the exhaust ports (as driven by the supply’s high voltage which can be varied to align with mission Isp). The ConstantQ™ uses a very specific geometry to drive this resonance, minimize wear, reduce power supply complexity, and reduce flight computing demands.

ConstantQ™ thrusters have produced thrust using water vapor, Xenon, Argon, Krypton, Iodine, and air.

First flight scheduled Q1, 2021

Yes. For deorbit, the Delta-v for 3U or 6U spacecraft is sufficient to reduce orbit and accelerate decay through drag. Delta-v is sufficient for several orbit maneuvers.

The M1.4 device uses ConstantQ™ propulsion technology, converting electricity and water

vapor into thrust. Thrust is derived from electrostatic acceleration of separated ions and

electrons using a combination of classic collisionless flow and electrohydrodynamic (EHD)

regimes, all working in a cycle determined by propellant temperature, input power, and device

geometry. The operating cycle is self stabilizing and does not require real time active control

once initiated, though altering temperature and/or power will alter delivered thrust. The process

is self neutralizing and does not require a neutralizer device. Pressures throughout the system

generate water vapor through sublimation, avoiding the need for water to boil and tolerating

frozen ice as the propellant.

Temperature management is achieved with a high-density flat heater on the tank, a valve

self-heating feature, and routing of electronics waste heat to minimize freezing of water vapor.

Thrust is attained with a wide range of temperatures, including a tank full of frozen water ice.

Water vapor is generated through sublimation that occurs when the system is run below the

vapor pressure – a process that does not require water to boil into steam. Water vapor, not liquid

water, reaches the thrust heads and is converted into plasma and thrust. Should liquid water get

near the thrust heads, it would rapidly sublimate into vapor due to vacuum exposure

11.5W is drawn by the heater when energized with 12V. The heater’s resistance is 12.5 Ohms, so it draws 0.96 Amps at 12 Volts. Thermal modeling of a 3U spacecraft shows this is 10%+ more power than required to compensate for a typical 10C change when a LEO satellite is eclipsed.

5V digital logic and valves are expected to draw 65mA, 0.33W, peak. At idle, 20mA, 0.1W, is expected.
12V heater power draws 11.5W.
At room temperature, 12V thruster operation draws 150mA, 1.8W, per thrust head. All four thrust heads running concurrently draw 600mA, 7.2W total.
The heater and thrust heads should not be run simultaneously.

No. The M1.4 naturally operates in pulses with a slight breathing mode around an unstable operating point. Internal capacitors essential to starting the process also prevent instant shutdown as their stored energy continues to feed pulses. As such, impulse bit timing, duration, and thrust are likely not regulated tightly enough for precision pointing of small craft.

FAQ

Yes. For deorbit, the Delta-v for 3U or 6U spacecraft is sufficient to reduce orbit and accelerate decay through drag. Delta-v is sufficient for several orbit maneuvers.

First flight scheduled Q4, 2021

The M1.4 device uses ConstantQ™ propulsion technology, converting electricity and water vapor into thrust. Thrust is derived from electrostatic acceleration of separated ions and electrons using a combination of classic collisionless flow and electrohydrodynamic (EHD) regimes, all working in a cycle determined by propellant temperature, input power, and device geometry. The operating cycle is self stabilizing and does not require real time active control once initiated, though altering temperature and/or power will alter delivered thrust. The process is self neutralizing and does not require a neutralizer device. Pressures throughout the system generate water vapor through sublimation, avoiding the need for water to boil and tolerating frozen ice as the propellant. Temperature management is achieved with a high-density flat heater on the tank, a valve self-heating feature, and routing of electronics waste heat to minimize freezing of water vapor. Thrust is attained with a wide range of temperatures, including a tank full of frozen water ice.

Water vapor is generated through sublimation that occurs when the system is run below the vapor pressure – a process that does not require water to boil into steam. Water vapor, not liquid water, reaches the thrust heads and is converted into plasma and thrust. Should liquid water get near the thrust heads, it would rapidly sublimate into vapor due to vacuum exposure.

Thermal Draw: 11.5 Watts (Heater on, no thrusters active) 

System Power: 5.75 Watts (all thrusters active)

Input Voltage: 5V logic, 12V thrust

No. The M1.4 naturally operates in pulses with a slight breathing mode around an unstable operating point. Internal capacitors essential to starting the process also prevent instant shutdown as their stored energy continues to feed pulses. As such, impulse bit timing, duration, and thrust are likely not regulated tightly enough for precision pointing of small craft.

  • Thrust: 2.8 mN (all thrusters active)

The applied equations are based upon an assumption of collisionless particle acceleration which is not fully applicable to this thruster design. The thruster instead operates in a mixture of regimes, some of which include collisions. Within the electrostatic acceleration region, the mean free path is short compared to the exit distance, causing charged particles to have many collisions with neutrals before exiting. The short mean free path means ion velocity never reaches high values, power consumption is lowered (due to that u^2 term in the power equation though with power gains offset by the number of collisions). Collisions do work on neutral gas, compressing and heating, forming a shock wave of higher pressure neutrals with anisotropic pressure and temperature distributions, further lowering the mean free path. The higher pressure gas wave pushes against the exhaust nozzle, giving the majority of the thrust. This is known as electrohydrodynamic (EHD) operation where charged particles are used to drag and compress neutrals.

In the flow rate regime used, there is more thrust per watt and higher Isp compressing neutrals (which are counted in the Isp) with a few charged particles rather than converting and accelerating most of the neutrals. Efficiency drops at higher flow rates where no initial long mean free path region exists after ionization, so the required compression shock wave never forms. At lower rates, the mean free path isn’t long enough to cause compression and indeed power consumption rises.

We have observed the pressure increases and have created a model that well captures the energy coupled into the gas and charged particle acceleration. The model shows the thruster is actually only moderately efficient, though clearly doing well enough to fit the size factor and thrust levels needed by the market. We are currently preparing for very high quality 3rd party thrust measurements to test the model, then will release details of this mixed-regime model under non-disclosure.