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Thrust and Efficiency Performance of the Microcavity Discharge Thruster
Final technical rept. 1 Mar 2010-28 Feb 2011
ILLINOIS UNIV AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
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This work has focused on the potential of microcavity discharge devices to serve in an electrothermal thruster role, especially in the case of nanosatellite propulsion. An MCD device concentrates a capacitive electric field 107 Vm inside the cavity, initiating plasma breakdowns, and increasing the propellant gas temperature. MCD thrust tests were performed on a compact thrust stand and indicated that an integral micronozzle produced a thrust coefficient large enough to be effective from an efficiency standpoint. Paschen minimum breakdown tests provided a practical limit on the line pressure used in testing and a rough system-level estimate of the voltages required to make optimal use of the thruster. Heating and thermal efficiency testing indicated the MCD thruster was capable of a high degree of heating and moderate thermal efficiency, up to To 555 K and 22. Increased nitrogen content in the propellant gas generally increased the degree of heating and efficiency observed, due to rotational and vibrational excited states, and location of discharge heating away from the cavity walls, reducing wall heat losses and increasing the thermal efficiency.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE