Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Carl Hartsfield, PhD.


Electric propulsion is an important technology for the future of space operations and exploration. Within the range of electric propulsion devices, Hall Effect Thrusters provide a balance of thrust and specific impulse well-suited for many Earth-centric missions. Hall Effect Thrusters have been studied since their development in the 1960s and have been flown on hundreds of spacecraft, but the intimate details of the plasma behavior within the thruster exhaust plume are still not well understood. Furthering this knowledge may be key to improving thruster design to yield better performance and longer lifetimes. To this end, experiments were conducted to measure visible emissions, plasma potential, and Hall Current from a 600 W permanent magnet Hall Effect Thruster in operation modes that exhibited two well-known plasma behaviors—breathing and azimuthal spokes. Multiple delays and issues with the thruster and laboratory equipment severely limited data collection during the present research, but a number of visible emissions data samples were collected. Data revealed the breathing mode exhibited in the permanent magnet thruster is similar to that in a previously studied electromagnet thruster. Additionally, a trend in the breathing mode was observed that appears to lead to discharge extinction. An azimuthally-varying mode was also identified and compared to the spoke mode exhibited by the electromagnet thruster.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number