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A resistojet is a method of spacecraft propulsion (electric propulsion) that provides thrust by heating a, typically non-reactive, fluid. Heating is usually achieved by sending electricity through a resistor consisting of a hot incandescent filament, with the expanded gas expelled through a conventional nozzle.
Resistojets have been flown in space since 1965 on board military Vela satellites. However, they only became used in commercial applications in 1980 with the launch of the first satellites in the INTELSAT-V program. Many GEO spacecraft, and all 95 Iridium, used Aerojet MR-501/MR-502 series resistojet engines. Nowadays resistojet propulsion is used for orbit insertion, attitude control, and deorbit of LEO satellites, and do well in situations where energy is much more plentiful than mass, and where propulsion efficiency needs to be reasonably high but low thrust is acceptable.
Resistojets have also been proposed as means of using biowaste as reaction mass, particularly in conjunction with hydrazine. Studies focus on the characteristics of steam and carbon dioxide as major constituents of a biowaste stream, and typically use cubic zirconia as a heating element.
- Electric Propulsion article in Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology, 3rd Edition, Academic Press, San Diego, v.5, pp. 125-141, 2002
- 30 Years of Electric Propulsion Flight Experience at Aerojet Rocketdyne. IEPC-2013-439. p. 2.
- NASA Contractor Report 179510, The R. J. Page Company Santa Ana, California, pp. 22-27, 1986
- A Xenon Resistojet Propulsion System for Microsatellites (Surrey Space Centre, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey) (Purchasable document)
- Two new ESA satellites successfully lofted into orbit (European Space Agency)
- Resistojet Propulsion System for Microsatellites (Alta, Italy)
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