Space Power & Propulsion Lab


The Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory (SPPL), founded at the University of Maryland in 2007, is a research facility of the Department of Aerospace Engineering, located on the second floor of the Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel Building.  The facility and personnel are dedicated to the science and engineering of advanced power and propulsion capabilities for the exploration of space in the 21st century.

Research Areas

  • Direct-drive fusion propulsion
  • Direct energy conversion
  • Electromagnetic Formation Flight
  • Helicon plasma applications
  • Ion plume surface interactions
  • Laser ablation propulsion
  • Catalyst-free N2O decomposition
  • Icy moon exploration mobility
  • Orbital debris remediation


The SPPL is a 900 sq ft facility with 6 vacuum chambers, DC, RF and microwave plasma sources, a 40 W pulsed IR laser ablation system, plasma probes, energy analyzers and optical plasma diagnostics, Labview driven PXI racks for data acquisition/control, CNC manufacturing, multiple simulation platforms (COMSOL, LSP, VORPAL), and computing facilities (8 core windows PC, 16 core Linux cluster, Intel quad core with Tesla GPU).

“Space is big.  Really Big.  You just wouldn’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-
bogglingly big it is.  I mean, you may think that it’s a long way down the road
to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
                                                            — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy