Media Contacts

Office of Media Relations
2121 Eye St., NW
Rice Hall 5th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20052

Phone: 202-994-6460
Fax: 202-994-9025
E-mail: [email protected]


The George Washington University Hosts Record-Size International Electric Propulsion Conference

October 16, 2013

Kurtis Hiatt
202-994-1849; [email protected]

Dave Andrews
202-994-5631; [email protected]

WASHINGTON—The George Washington University hosted the 33rd International Electric Propulsion Conference (IEPC) Oct. 6-10. The IEPC had a record number of attendees and papers delivered.

Despite uncertain government budgets and the ongoing government shutdown, more than 443 people attended the conference, delivering 356 technical papers on solar electric propulsion (SEP), a form of highly efficient spacecraft propulsion in which the propulsion system uses electricity generated by the spacecraft’s solar panels to accelerate the propellant to very high speeds. Papers ranged in subjects from basic research on new technologies for micropropulsion to large scale SEP vehicle concepts for missions such as NASA’s Asteroid Retrieval Mission.

“Record-breaking international participation of 25 countries, in addition to overall record number of participants, is a testament of significant growth and recognition of the electric propulsion field,” said Michael Keidar, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at GW and general chair of the IEPC 2013.

George Washington and other university students had the opportunity to meet top minds in the electric propulsion field at one of many events hosted by the university that showcases science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Attendees also included academics, government and industry representatives as well as satellite manufacturers and operators, which shows their keen interest in electric propulsion technology.

Space propulsion is required for satellite motion in the outer space. The displacement of a satellite in space, orbit transfer and its attitude control are the task of space propulsion, which is carried out by rocket engines. In principle, there are two major types of rocket engines which are distinguished by the energy source used: chemical and electric. Electric propulsion uses electrical energy to energize or to accelerate the propellant. This is the main advantage of electric over chemical propulsion, since the amount of energy is limited to external sources only.

“The Electric Rocket Propulsion Society (ERPS) is proud to co-sponsor this outstanding conference with representatives from spacecraft manufacturers and operators, propulsion system providers and university researchers,” said Roger Myers, president of ERPS and executive director of Advanced In-space Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “This venue provides a unique opportunity to build on the nearly 50-year flight heritage of more than 200 satellites flying EP.”

The conference also included a presentation of the Ernst Stuhlinger medal to Hitoshi Kuninaka. Dr. Kuninaka was the principal investigator of the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft, which used ion propulsion to return samples of the asteroid Itokawa to Earth. The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) built Hayabusa spacecraft to test new technologies and to collect the first samples from the surface of an asteroid. Hayabusa studied and photographed asteroid Itokawa for more than two months. The Hayabusa sample capsule returned to Earth and was recovered. Hayabusa was the first spacecraft to successfully land and take off from the surface of an asteroid.

The George Washington University
In the heart of the nation's capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries.

- GW -