Joseph Schmidt

MIT Department: Aeronautics and Astronautics

Undergraduate Institution: University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley

Faculty Mentor: Paulo Lozano

Research Supervisor: Dakota Freeman

Website: LinkedIn

2018 Research Poster


I was born in Texas but have lived in Indonesia, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea as a third culture kid. I attend the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) studying Mechanical Engineering with minors in Physics and Pure Mathematics. My goal is to design space propulsion systems that travel faster than light and jumpstart human colonization of space. My hobbies include dancing, parkour/free-running, cooking, and attempting to solve the Collatz conjecture.

2018 Research Abstract

Development of Improved Substrate Materials for Ion Electrospray Thrusters

Joseph Schmidt1, Dakota Freeman2 and Paulo Lozano3

1Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

2, 3Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

With the advent of microsatellites, several space missions can now be done in a more cost-effective manner while maintaining the same technological capabilities of modern satellites. Current microthruster systems are complex, power intensive, and inefficient which reduce mission lifespan. The Ion Electrospray Propulsion System (iEPS) uses capillary action to passively transport ionic propellant to a grid of emitter tips where the propellant is accelerated outward producing thrust. If the emitter grid has an irregular porosity, then laser etching the emitter tips may uncover large voids which degrade the material quality and maximum achievable thrust. A more homogenously porous material, such as fused silica spheres, would solve this problem by allowing a tight, regular packing arrangement for the emitter grid. By pressure casting silica into small square chips and sintering them, the desired shape, porosity, and homogeneity of the chip can be maintained. With a more regular silica chip, the emitter grid can then be laser ablated to have more emitter tips per area thus increasing the thrust and making the thruster more efficient. With a higher efficiency, the iEPS can offer a noncomplex, low-power, and affordable option for microsatellites to advance the progress of science.