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Minihelicon Plasma Thruster

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1 Author(s)
Batishchev, O.V. ; Dept. of Aeronaut. & Astronaut., Massachusetts Inst. of Technol., Cambridge, MA, USA

A compact high-power-density helicon plasma source operating on abundant medium atomic weight gases is under examination for a potential electric propulsion application. A high specific impulse, which is easily varied in the range of ~1-2 ks for Ar and ~2-4 ks for N2 propellant, was achieved. A well- collimated plasma plume with emittance ~10deg is produced in a single-magnet configuration. Analysis of the data obtained using in situ and noninvasive spectral diagnostics indicates almost complete gaseous propellant ionization and thrust efficiency etaT ~ 20% with the lowest net ionization cost of ~(80 V)-1 per ion. Direct weighing has yielded a thrusting force of T ~ 10 mN.

Published in:

Plasma Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:37 ,  Issue: 8 )