Low-Cost Precision Flow Control

CUA’s newest product is the Cycle Automated Mass Flow (CAMFlow) system (see Fig. 1), providing reliable and well-regulated flow control for electric propulsion systems. CAMFlow uses an innovative control scheme that enables stable operation using fixed frequency, Boolean valve states, even for the low flow rates necessary for sub-kilowatt Hall effect thrusters. This methodology removes system complexity, places the onus of reliability on valve cycle life, and combined with the fixed operational frequency allows for a direct correlation between system life and valve cycle life. The CAMFlow control scheme was successfully implemented and tested and validated on a 600-Watt Hall thruster. This included open loop, closed loop, and cold start operations. The control valves were cycled > 120 Million pulses demonstrating long-life potential. CAMFlow units are presently focused on smaller Hall-effect or gridded-ion electric propulsion systems having a flow rate in the 0 – 10 mg/s range, however the technology is widely applicable over a larger range of flow rates for a broader commercial market. The CAMFlow system will accept up to 2,500 psia of input pressure and control the output flow rate to < ±3%. Through the use of less expensive space-rated components, CAMFlow technology provides a reliable low-cost flow controller that is well-suited for sub-kiloWatt Hall/ion thrusters.

Advantages include:

  • Low-cost flow controller well-suited for sub-kiloWatt Hall/ion thrusters
  • Flow control of < ±3% demonstrated

  • Can accept up to 2,500 psia input pressure
  • Hard startup on Hall thruster demonstrated

  • Demonstrated > 120 million valve actuations @ < 1x10-4 sccs He leak rate

Propellant Options: Xenon, Krypton, Argon, Nitrogen, other inert gases 

Status: Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) required for final design and qualification. Lead time will depend upon qualification level. Non-flight Engineering Model (EM) ~ 7 months lead time

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Related Publications
C. A. Woodruff, M. Parta, N. Hejmanowski, D. L. Carroll, L. Su, C. Sercel, C. Whittaker, E. Viges, M. Byrne, and B. Jorns, Cycle Automated Mass Flow (CAMFlow) System for Hall Thrusters 19 Jun. 2022, 37th International Electric Propulsion Conference Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA USA, Cambridge, MA, June 19-23, 2022, DOI n/a, (2022)