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ST7 Colloidal Micro-Newton Thrusters

LPF Technology

ST7 Colloidal Micro-Newton Thrusters

ST7's Colloidal Thrusters. Credit: NASA

ST7's Colloidal Thrusters

Applying micro-Newton forces to the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft

Achieving drag-free flight of the LTP test masses requires precise control of the surrounding spacecraft. Thrust levels of a few millionths of a Newton (about the weight of a fruit-fly on Earth) are needed to control a spacecraft with a mass of several hundred kilograms. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed and tested a Colloidal Micro-Newton Thruster (CMNT) that generates thrust by charging small drops of liquid and accelerating them through an electric field. The ST7 payload contains two clusters with four CMNTs each.