Skip to Main Content
The effects of cathode position on the operation and plume properties of an 8-kW Hall thruster are discussed. Thruster operation was investigated at operating conditions ranging from 200 to 500 V of discharge voltage, 10-40 A of discharge current, and 2-8 kW of discharge power, with a cathode positioned either in the traditional externally mounted configuration outside the outer magnetic pole piece or in an internally mounted configuration central to the inner magnetic core. With the external cathode, substantial emission in the visible spectrum that follows magnetic field lines surrounds the exterior pole pieces of the thruster. With the internal cathode, the emission is largely absent while the cathode plume is compressed and elongated in the axial direction by the strong axial magnetic field on the thruster centerline. Discharge current oscillation and ion species fraction measurements were found to be similar for the cathode locations, whereas the operation with the internal cathode was found to favor an improved coupling of the cathode plume with the thruster discharge. Ion current density measurements show that with respect to externally mounted designs, internally mounted cathodes reduce plume divergence and increase the symmetry of the near-field plume. The impacts of internally mounted cathodes on thruster physics and spacecraft integration activities are assessed.