Direct thrust measurements and modelling of a radio-frequency expanding plasma thruster

Lafleur, T.; Takahashi, K.; Charles, C.; Boswell, R. W.
August 2011
Physics of Plasmas;Aug2011, Vol. 18 Issue 8, p080701
Academic Journal
It is shown analytically that the thrust from a simple plasma thruster (in the absence of a magnetic field) is given by the maximum upstream electron pressure, even if the plasma diverges downstream. Direct thrust measurements of a thruster are then performed using a pendulum thrust balance and a laser displacement sensor. A maximum thrust of about 2 mN is obtained at 700 W for a thruster length of 17.5 cm and a flow rate of 0.9 mg s-1, while a larger thrust of 4 mN is obtained at a similar power for a length of 9.5 cm and a flow rate of 1.65 mg s-1. The measured thrusts are in good agreement with the maximum upstream electron pressure found from measurements of the plasma parameters and in fair agreement with a simple global approach used to model the thruster.


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