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Design, Fabrication, and Testing of Emissive Probes to Determine the Plasma Potential of the Plumes of Various Electric ThrustersA significant problem in the use of electric thrusters in spacecraft is the formation of low-energy ions in the thruster plume. Low-energy ions are formed in the plume via random collisions between high-velocity ions ejected from the thruster and slow-moving neutral atoms of propellant effusing from the engine. The sputtering of spacecraft materials due to interactions with low-energy ions may result in erosion or contamination of the spacecraft. The trajectory of these ions is determined primarily by the plasma potential of the plume. Thus, accurate characterization of the plasma potential is essential to predicting low-energy ion contamination. Emissive probes were utilized to determine the plasma potential. When the ion and electron currents to the probe are balanced, the potential of such probes float to the plasma potential. Two emissive probes were fabricated; one utilizing a DC power supply, another utilizing a rectified AC power source. Labview programs were written to coordinate and automate probe motion in the thruster plume. Employing handshaking interaction, these motion programs were synchronized to various data acquisition programs to ensure precision and accuracy of the measurements. Comparing these experimental values to values from theoretical models will allow for a more accurate prediction of low-energy ion interaction.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Document Type
Conference Paper
Chen, Erinna M.
(Princeton Univ. NJ, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
August 1, 2005
Publication Information
Publication: Summer Student Research Presentations
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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