Recommended Practices in Thrust Measurements
CALIFORNIA INST OF TECHNOLOGY PASADENA JET PROPULSION LAB
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Accurate, direct measurement of thrust or impulse is one of the most critical elements of electric thruster characterization, and one of the most difficult measurements to make. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has started an initiative to develop standards for many important measurement processes in electric propulsion, including thrust measurements. This paper summarizes recommended practices for the design, calibration, and operation of pendulum thrust stands, which are widely recognized as the best approach for measuring microN- to mN-level thrust and microNs-level impulse bits. The fundamentals of pendulum thrust stand operation are reviewed, along with its implementation in hanging pendulum, inverted pendulum, and torsional balance configurations. Methods of calibration and recommendations for calibration processes are presented. Sources of error are identified and methods for data processing and uncertainty analysis are discussed. This review is intended to be the first step toward a recommended practices document to help the community produce high quality thrust measurements.
- Electric and Ion Propulsion