NASA Logo

NTRS

NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
High Power Flex-Propellant Arcjet PerformanceA MW-class electrothermal arcjet based on a water-cooled, wall-stabilized, constricted arc discharge configuration was subjected to extensive performance testing using hydrogen and simulated ammonia propellants with the deliberate aim of advancing technology readiness level for potential space propulsion applications. The breadboard design incorporates alternating conductor/insulator wafers to form a discharge barrel enclosure with a 2.5-cm internal bore diameter and an overall length of approximately 1 meter. Swirling propellant flow is introduced into the barrel, and a DC arc discharge mode is established between a backplate tungsten cathode button and a downstream ringanode/ spin-coil assembly. The arc-heated propellant then enters a short mixing plenum and is accelerated through a converging-diverging graphite nozzle. This innovative design configuration differs substantially from conventional arcjet thrusters, in which the throat functions as constrictor and the expansion nozzle serves as the anode, and permits the attainment of an equilibrium sonic throat (EST) condition. During the test program, applied electrical input power was varied between 0.5-1 MW with hydrogen and simulated ammonia flow rates in the range of 4-12 g/s and 15-35 g/s, respectively. The ranges of investigated specific input energy therefore fell between 50-250 MJ/kg for hydrogen and 10-60 MJ/kg for ammonia. In both cases, observed arc efficiencies were between 40-60 percent as determined via a simple heat balance method based on electrical input power and coolant water calorimeter measurements. These experimental results were found to be in excellent agreement with theoretical chemical equilibrium predictions, thereby validating the EST assumption and enabling the utilization of standard TDK nozzle expansion analyses to reliably infer baseline thruster performance characteristics. Inferred specific impulse performance accounting for recombination kinetics during the expansion process implied nearly frozen flow in the nozzle and yielded performance ranges of 800-1100 sec for hydrogen and 400-600 sec for ammonia. Inferred thrust-to-power ratios were in the range of 30-10 lbf/MWe for hydrogen and 60-20 lbf/MWe for ammonia. Successful completion of this test series represents a fundamental milestone in the progression of high power arcjet technology, and it is hoped that the results may serve as a reliable touchstone for the future development of MW-class regeneratively-cooled flex-propellant plasma rockets.
Document ID
20120016430
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Litchford, Ron J. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 26, 2013
Publication Date
June 25, 2011
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Report/Patent Number
M12-2079
Meeting Information
42nd AIAA Plasmadynamics and Laser Conference(New Orleans, LA)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

Available Downloads

NameType 20120016430.pdf STI