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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A Brief Overview of Advanced and Electric Propulsion


It was detect in an early stage that the propulsion power of chemical space propulsion system is too low. Missions with high power requirements can only be realized with multistage and a low share of payload. The reason for this is a too low energy portion of the used propellant, which limited the maximum achievable exit velocity from about 4 to 5 km/s.

One possibility to overcome this existing process limitation is to link in additional energy, like electric energy. This was transcribted by Goddard in 1906 and later by Hermann Oberth in his book "The Rocket into Interplanetary Space". Only after the second World War the Development of large rocket seemed possible. On that time especially the work from Ernst Stuhlinger showed the advantage from electric propulsion again. Therefore, this introduced a lot of extensive research and development programs worldwide since the 1960s.

Various Concepts

Complete different concepts were investigate, which were especially diffencent in their acceleration mechanism. You can accelerate electric energy in a electrostatic, electrothermal or in a electromagnetic way. Before using electrostatic or electromagnetic acceleration power, you need to ionize the propellant and get charge carrier.

In the most of the electric propulsions, a wide variety of the exit velocity can be caused by a variation of the input power and the propellant, but also with your coice of the propellant, too. Now you can describe different thruster classes. The difference between eachother is their maximum exit velocity, the thrust density. the thrust-perfomance-ratio and also their celection criteria of the propellant.

At the Institut of Space Systems you can find a large-scale of testing facilities for development of electric propulsion. 


Further developments need to be tested in real-life conditions. For this you need a huge number of equipment and materials. In the area of the test plants you can find more details.

If a new construction for a re-entry mission ready to be tested, you additional need plasma, which you generate in an own plasma generator.