A Torsional Balance for the Characterization of MicroNewton Thrusters
BUSEK CO INC NATICK MA
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We describe the performance of a torsional balance suitable for the study of microNewton thrusters. A design based on flexural pivots and electrostatic forces for calibration and active damping makes it possible to test thrusters with a mass of a few kilograms, and measure sub-microNewton level forces with high accuracy and a resolution better than 0.03 micro N. The usefulness of the balance is proved by measuring the performance of two different electric propulsion accelerators a colloid thmster generating thrust in the 2 to 15 micro N range, and a micro pulsed plasma thruster yielding single impulse bits of 19 micro Ns. The low noise figure of the balance below 0.1 micro N square root of Hz in the 7 mHz to 1 Hz bandwidth will make it possible to measure the thrust noise requirements imposed in colloid thrusters by missions such as the Space Technology 7 and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.
- Electric and Ion Propulsion