Date of Award
Master of Science
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Richard E. Huffman, PhD.
Few options currently exist to provide propulsion for extremely small satellites due to design constraints on power, volume, and weight. However, future operation will require a capability to conduct orbital maneuvers, momentum dumping, and precision pointing for these low cost satellites. The research presented here represents the first effort to operate and quantify the performance of a new micro plasma thruster design which provides a novel solution to these disparate competing constraints. The thruster in this study represents a deviation from traditional circular Hall thruster design practices, because it eschews a central magnetic circuit, which results in nearly parallel electric and magnetic field lines within the thruster discharge channel. This design decision reduces thruster complexity and thermal susceptibility, but it also reduces the ionization efficiency. The cornerstone of this study involved the direct measurement of thrust in order to quantify the efficiency and specific impulse of this innovative thruster. The investigation also included characterization of the thruster exhaust plume, voltage-current characteristics, and operating limits. Results are enumerated and suggestions for improvement provided.
DTIC Accession Number
De la Harpe, John-David C., "Performance Characterization of a Novel Plasma Thruster to Provide a Revolutionary Operationally Responsive Space Capability with Micro- and Nano-Satellites" (2011). Theses and Dissertations. 1317.