Airbus Defence and Space



The thrusters plume flows around a spacecraft have perturbing effects on several important parameters in the spacecraft design: - attitude perturbing torques - heat fluxes - surface contamination


PLUME is a modelling tool that provides prediction of the plume perturbing effects during the mission.

Features / technical details

The prediction of the plume impingement leads to significant positive effects on the spacecraft mission:
  • The perturbing forces and torques due to the plume impingement on the spacecraft surfaces are taken into account for the thruster implementation, the orbit control strategy and the propellant budget.
  • The plume generated heat fluxes are a necessary input for the thermal analysis.
  • The surface contaminations due to the contaminants deposit allow to predict the surfaces degradations and to decide the need of protections.
The main assumption of the computation is that the flow generated by the thrusters is not perturbed by the geometry. So, the computation is performed in 2 steps:
  • First, the flow is computed assuming that the nozzle is 2D axi-symmetrical. Advanced methods are involved to model the combustion in the chamber, the flow inside the nozzle, the nozzle lip expansion, the flow outside the nozzle (Navier-stokes, DSMC, ...) (PLUMFLOW module).
  • Then, the geometry is modelled using the SYSTEMA framework (simple shapes), and the thruster implementation is defined. The interaction between the plume and the satellite is computed by the PLUME module for one or several thrusters. The kinematics is driven either by the mission module of SYSTEMA or directly by PLUME.

The computation results are either local (pressure, shear stress, thermal fluxes, mass fluxes) or integrated over the surfaces (perturbing forces and torques).



The PLUME results are currently used to design (thrusters implementation, thermal effects, contamination) all the satellites of Airbus Defence and Space (ASTRA2B, WORLDSTAR, Hot-Bird, INTELSAT X, INMARSAT 4, ARIANE, SPOT, SOHO, XMM, ROSETTA, …).

PLUME is also the only engineering tool for plume impingement developed in Europe. Numerous correlation cases have been studied with on ground measurements (from CNRS, TUHH, DLR) and also in flight data (TELECOM 2 …) in order to increase the confidence in the models parameters and reduce the design margins.

Reference customers