Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 30745
Study on Plasma Creation and Propagation in a Pulsed Magnetoplasmadynamic Thruster

Authors: Tony Schönherr, Kimiya Komurasaki, Georg Herdrich


The performance and the plasma created by a pulsed magnetoplasmadynamic thruster for small satellite application is studied to understand better the ablation and plasma propagation processes occurring during the short-time discharge. The results can be applied to improve the quality of the thruster in terms of efficiency, and to tune the propulsion system to the needs required by the satellite mission. Therefore, plasma measurements with a high-speed camera and induction probes, and performance measurements of mass bit and impulse bit were conducted. Values for current sheet propagation speed, mean exhaust velocity and thrust efficiency were derived from these experimental data. A maximum in current sheet propagation was found by the high-speed camera measurements for a medium energy input and confirmed by the induction probes. A quasilinear tendency between the mass bit and the energy input, the current action integral respectively, was found, as well as a linear tendency between the created impulse and the discharge energy. The highest mean exhaust velocity and thrust efficiency was found for the highest energy input.

Keywords: Space Engineering, Electric Propulsion, low-density plasma, pulsed magnetoplasmadynamicthruster

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 2091


[1] D. Bock, G. Herdrich, M. Lau, T. Sch¨onherr, B. Wollenhaupt, and H.- P. R¨oser, "Electric propulsion systems for small satellites: The LEO mission Perseus," in 3rd European Conf. for Aero-Space Sciences, Versailles, France, July 2009.
[2] E. L. Antonsen, R. L. Burton, G. A. Reed, and G. G. Spanjers, "Effects of postpulse surface temperature on micropulsed plasma thruster operation," J. Propul. Power, vol. 21, no. 5, pp. 877-883, September- October 2005.
[3] G. G. Spanjers, J. S. Lotspeich, K. A. McFall, and R. E. Spores, "Propellant losses because of particulate emission in a pulsed plasma thruster," J. Propul. Power, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 554-559, July-August 1998.
[4] T. Sch¨onherr, K. Komurasaki, M. Lau, G. Herdrich, H.-P. R¨oser, S. Yokota, and Y. Arakawa, "Cooperation activities between IRS and the University of Tokyo in the field of pulsed plasma thruster development," in Proc. 31st IEPC, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, September 2009.
[5] T. Sch¨onherr, A. Nawaz, M. Lau, D. Petkow, and G. Herdrich, "Review of pulsed plasma thruster development at IRS," in Trans. JSASS, Aerospace Technology Japan. JSASS, 2010 (to be published).
[6] A. Nawaz, R. Albertoni, and M. Auweter-Kurtz, "Thrust efficiency optimization of the pulsed plasma thruster SIMP-LEX," Acta Astronaut., vol. 67, no. 3-4, pp. 440-448, August-September 2010.
[7] T. Sch¨onherr, K. Komurasaki, R. Kawashima, Y. Arakawa, and G. Herdrich, "Effect of capacitance on discharge behavior of pulsed plasma thruster," App. Plasma Sci., vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 23-28, June 2010.
[8] R. C. Phillips and E. B. Turner, "Construction and calibration techniques of high frequency magnetic probes," Rev. Sci. Instrum., vol. 36, no. 12, pp. 1822-1825, December 1965.
[9] G. G. Spanjers and R. A. Spores, "PPT research at AFRL: Material probes to measure the magnetic field distribution in a pulsed plasma thruster," in 34th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE JPC, Cleveland, OH, USA, July 1998.
[10] H. Koizumi, K. Komurasaki, and Y. Arakawa, "Development of thrust stand for low impulse measurement from microthrusters," Rev. Sci. Instrum., vol. 75, no. 10, pp. 3185-3190, Oct. 2004.
[11] T. E. Markusic, J. W. Berkery, and E. Choueiri, "Visualization of current sheet evolution in a pulsed plasma accelerator," IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci., vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 528-529, April 2005.
[12] D. J. Palumbo and W. J. Guman, "Propellant sidefeed-short pulse discharge thruster studies," Fairchild Industries Inc., Farmingdale, NY, USA, Technical Report NASA CR-112035, January 1972.
[13] R. J. Vondra, K. I. Thomassen, and A. Solbes, "Analysis of solid teflon pulsed plasma thruster," J. Spacecraft Rockets, vol. 7, no. 12, pp. 1402- 1406, December 1970.
[14] D. J. Palumbo and W. J. Guman, "Effects of propellant and electrode geometry on pulsed ablative plasma thruster performance," J. Spacecraft Rockets, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 163-167, March 1976.