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Plasmas for Propulsion

This course covers the physics, thermodynamics, and mechanics of ionized fluids for propulsion applications. This course begins by introducing principles of statistical thermodynamics to derive distribution functions for the fluid description of charged particles. Electrohydrodynamic and magnetohydrodynamic continuum models are introduced and applied to equilibrium problems ranging from the transport of a multi-species charged liquid in a propellant reservoir to the acceleration of a supersonic plasma flow. Both continuum and kinetic approaches are applied to understand the key principles and non-linear phenomena pertinent to the design and operation ion engines, Hall thrusters, and generic ion plumes.

MAE4540/5540 (formerly MAE6540)

Propulsion of Spacecraft

This course provides the contextual and physical framework to understand and design space propulsion devices. An introduction to the basic principles of propulsion and performance metrics in the context of space missions are presented. Key physics underlying the operation of propulsion devices are covered. Building on these physics, the operational principles of a range of propulsion systems are presented. Specifically, the design and performance of ion engines, Hall thrusters, electrospray thrusters, and emerging propulsion concepts are covered. After taking this course, students will be conversant across the range of propulsion options for space missions, able to describe the physics underlying their operation and performance limits, and able to use their knowledge of propulsion physics and mission context to create and evaluate new designs.

Example syllabus here.

SmallSat Mission Design School
Debut Summer 2021

Cornell University is offering a summer program that provides first-hand experience in space mission design. This is a new, unique workshop to inspire innovative missions in high-priority space science made possible with small spacecraft. Participants will work with a group of science and technology innovators to develop a mission concept with immediate relevance to NASA’s Decadal Survey science priorities, directed at an upcoming announcement of opportunity for a funded flight program. Students will benefit from the combined expertise of Cornell faculty in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Astronomy, and Planetary Sciences, as well as external scientists from industry partners.

Find out more here.
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