Development Status of the Helicon Hall Thruster
AIR FORCE RESEARCH LAB EDWARDS AFB CA PROPULSION DIRECTORATE
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The development status of a two-stage Hall thruster, the Helicon Hall Thruster, is presented. The Helicon Hall Thruster combines the efficient ionization mechanism of a helicon source with the favorable plasma acceleration properties of a Hall thruster. Conventional Hall thrusters rely on direct current electron bombardment to ionize the flow in order to generate thrust. Electron bombardment typically results in an ionization cost that can be on the order of ten times the ionization potential, leading to reduced efficiency, particularly at low specific impulse and discharge voltage. Helicon sources have been demonstrated to be an efficient means of producing a high-density, low-temperature plasma. The goals of the program are to design, manufacture, and test a thruster that operates efficiently over a range of input power from 3 to 10 kW with discharge voltages ranging from 150 to 500 V and discharge currents ranging from 12 to 40 A. The potential benefits of a reduced ionization cost with the helicon ionization stage are outlined. The design and manufacturing challenges involved in the development of the thruster are discussed, followed by plans for testing.
- Electric and Ion Propulsion