A High Thrust Density, C60 Cluster, Ion Thruster.
Final technical rept. 1 Dec 93-30 Nov 95,
BUSEK CO INC NATICK MA
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This report summarizes the results of a two year SBlR Phase II effort to develop a fullerene ion thruster system consisting of an integrated fullerene propellant delivery system and the thruster. The system has been designed, constructed and tested. Investigation of fullerene properties and behavior as related to in-space storage and vaporization was carried out concurrently in a separate apparatus constructed for that purpose. The dc discharge method of fullerene vapor ionization was selected over electrodeless e.g. RF ionization alternatives. Argon fed hollow cathodes were used as the source of discharge electrons and for beam neutralization. A 1000 eV ion beam currents of the order of 30 mA were measured which resulted in calculated thrust in excess of 3 mN and a disappointing propellant utilization in the range of 10 to 20. While using Ar fed hollow cathode the carbon residue inside the discharge chamber was very small relative to that observed when using heated tungsten filament cathode. This is credited to absence of thermal fragmentation caused by the filament and to possible beneficial effects of argon. Future work on the discharge chamber, the grid system and the effects of noble gas on fullerene plasma is likely to yield a viable electric propulsion device which could also be used for fast growth rate carbon film deposition.
- Electric and Ion Propulsion