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Investigating Thruster Plume Contamination in Spacecrafts

Researchers at the German Aerospace Center in Gottingen have investigated the possibility of propellant exhaust contamination in space exploration missions through the use of their unique High-vacuum plume test facility for chemical thrusters (STG-CT). This facility is cooled to minus 269 degrees Celsius with liquid helium, enabling the exhaust gases of the engine to spread out as if they were in space. The analysis showed that different thrusters of similar types cause very different levels of contamination and that hydrazine residues were found in the exhaust gas jets, which do not completely decompose. The findings of the investigations will help to better assess contamination from propulsion systems of future spacecraft.

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