Encyclopedia Astronautica
SIT- 5


Hughes electric/mercury rocket engine. 2.1 mN. Isp=3000s. 5 cm diameter mercury ion engine, developed 1970 for attitude control and north-south stationkeeping of geosynchronous satellites.

The SIT- 5, a 5 cm diameter mercury ion engine, was developed circa 1970 for attitude control and north-south stationkeeping of geosynchronous satellites. The thruster input power was 0.072 kW, and it provided a thrust of 2.1 mN at a specific impulse of 3000 s. Electrostatic thrust vectoring grids with a 10 degree vectoring capability were baselined. The engine was successfully random vibration tested at 19.9g rms. The mass of the thruster and mercury storage and feed system was 2.2 kg. The propellant system could store 56.8 kg of mercury which could provide operation at full-power for approximately 30,000 hours. The envelope was about 31 cm long by 12 cm diameter. The SIT-5 development program focused on the thruster and flight system development: there was no power processing unit technology effort. Hollow cathode component tests demonstrated over 2800 simulated duty cycles. A separate test of the SIT-5 thruster was conducted for 9715 hours at a beam voltage of 1300 V, a thrust of 1.8 mN, and a specific impulse of 2500 s. During the initial 2023 hours, the thruster was operated with a translating screen grid thrust vector system, and the thruster had an electrostatic thrust vector system for the remainder of the test. The electrostatic beam vector grids were operated at 5 degrees deflection for about 120 hours and at either 2 degrees or 4 degrees deflection for 1770 hours. There were a number of grid shorts that were successfully cleared by the application of 200 V to 400 V at currents from 6 mA to 70 mA. These tests were helpful in the later definition of grid-clear circuits for the IAPS, XIPS, and NSTAR thrusters. The SIT-5 mercury propellant system was successfully tested for a period of 5400 hours in an independent test.

Electrical Input Power: 0.0720 kW.

Thrust: 0.0021 N (0.0004 lbf).
Specific impulse: 3,000 s.
First Launch: 1969-1972.

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Associated Countries
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Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Hughes American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Hughes Aircraft Co. , USA More...

Associated Propellants
  • Electric/Mercury The many versions of electric engines use electric or magnetic fields to accelerate ionized elements to high velocity, creating thrust. The power source can be a nuclear reactor or thermal-electric generator, or solar panels. Proposed as propellant for some ion motors. More...

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