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Atomic clocks that fly on global-navigation satellites such as global positioning system (GPS) and Galileo employ light from low-temperature, inductively coupled plasmas (ICPs) for atomic signal generation and detection (i.e., alkali/noble-gas rf-discharge lamps). In this application, the performance of the atomic clock and the capabilities of the navigation system depend sensitively on the stability of the ICP’s optical emission. In order to better understand the mechanisms that might lead to instability in these rf-discharge lamps, and hence the satellite atomic clocks, we studied the optical emission from a Rb/Xe ICP as a function of the rf power driving the plasma. Surprisingly, we found that the electron density in the plasma was essentially independent of increases in rf power above its nominal value (i.e., “rf-power gain”) and that the electron temperature was only a slowly varying function of rf-power gain. The primary effect of rf power was to increase the temperature of the neutrals in the plasma, which was manifested by an increase in Rb vapor density. Interestingly, we also found evidence for electron temperature fluctuations (i.e., fluctuations in the plasma’s high-energy electron content). The variance of these fluctuations scaled inversely with the plasma’s mean electron temperature and was consistent with a simple model that assumed that the total electron density in the discharge was independent of rf power. Taken as a whole, our results indicate that the electrons in alkali/noble-gas ICPs are little affected by slight changes in rf power and that the primary effect of such changes is to heat the plasma’s neutral species.