Prof. Dr.-Ing.
Stefanos Fasoulas


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sabine Klinkner

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Alfred Krabbe

Prof. Fasoulas

Larissa Schunter

Prof. Klinkner

Annegret Möller

Prof. Krabbe

Barbara Klett


Dr. Thomas Wegmann


Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme
Pfaffenwaldring 29
70569 Stuttgart

Tel. +49 711 685-69604
Fax +49 711 685-63596

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History of PPTs

History and Missions

The PPT was the first electric propulsion system to be operated in space. Zond (Зонд) 2, one of the first probes to attempt a flyby of Mars, was launched from Baikonur on November 30, 1964 carrying six Pulsed Plasma Thrusters. After having shown the reliability for space operation subsequent missions were planned and carried out using PPTs as propulsion system.

On the Lincoln Laboratory LES-6 communications satellite, East-West station keeping was functionally performed in more than 16 months of space operation using 4 PPTs.

Additional successful missions followed comprising the Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS; 1974) and the TRANSIT navigation satellite system in 1981.

The Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) Mission was developed as part of the NASA New Millennium Program established in 1994. The mission provided for an on-orbit demonstration of a low mass, low cost, dependable electromagnetic PPT propulsion unit designed for precision attitude control and was successfully launched on November 21st, 2000. A list of flight qualified PPTs can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1: List of flight qualified PPT versions*.

Currently the IRS is developing a coaxial PPT that is a further development of the SIMP-LEX and ADD SIMP-LEX thrusters developed at this institute. It is supposed to be used on a CubeSat mission to be able to perform a controlled re-entry of the vehicle.


* M. Cabrera, G. Herdrich, M. Lau, S. Fasoulas, and T. Schönherr, “Pulsed Plasma Thrusters : a worldwide review and long yearned classification,” Int. Electr. Propuls. Conf., p. 340, 2011.