High-Specific-Impulse Electrostatic Thruster with Argon Propellant

Abstract

In this study, an electrostatic thruster was newly developed, in which a diverging magnetic field with a cusp around a cathode was applied by using two solenoid coils. The effects of the magnetic field strength on thrust performance under a similar applied-magnetic-field configuration were investigated. Because of its light weight and lower price, argon was used as a propellant. By increasing the magnetic field strength, the thrust efficiency was improved owing to the suppression of the discharge current while an almost constant thrust was maintained. A specific impulse of 3800 s with thrust efficiency greater than 30% was obtained; the corresponding mass-averaged exhaust velocity exceeded the value by full-potential electrostatic acceleration of singly charged ions. From the thrust performance, ion beam current, and ion energy distribution function that were experimentally measured under the representative operation condition, 32% of the ion beam current and 43% of the total thrust were evaluated as the contribution of doubly charged ions.

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