The rectangular pulsed plasma thruster (PPT) is an electromagnetic thruster that ablates Teflon propellant to produce thrust in a discharge that lasts 5-20 microseconds. In order to integrate PPTs onto spacecraft, it is necessary to investigate possible thruster plume-spacecraft interactions. The PPT plume consists of neutral and charged particles from the ablation of the Teflon fuel bar as well as electrode materials. In this thesis a novel application of quadruple Langmuir probes is implemented in the PPT plume to obtain electron temperature, electron density, and ion speed ratio measurements (ion speed divided by most probable thermal speed). The pulsed plasma thruster used is a NASA Glenn laboratory model based on the LES 8/9 series of PPTs, and is similar in design to the Earth Observing-1 satellite PPT. At the 20 J discharge energy level, the thruster ablates 26.6 mg of Teflon, creating an impulse bit of 256 mN-s with a specific impulse of 986 s. The quadruple probes were operated in the so-called current mode, eliminating the need to make voltage measurements. The current collection to the parallel to the flow electrodes is based on Laframboise's theory for probe to Debye length ratios between 5 and 100, and on the thin-sheath theory for ratios above 100. The ion current to the perpendicular probe is based on a model by Kanal and is a function of the ion speed ratio, the applied non-dimensional potential and the collection area. A formal error analysis is performed using the complete set of nonlinear current collection equations. The quadruple Langmuir probes were mounted on a computer controlled motion system that allowed movement in the radial direction, and the thruster was mounted on a motion system that allowed angular variation. Measurements were taken at 10, 15 and 20 cm form the Teflon fuel bar face, at angles up to 40 degrees off of the centerline axis at discharge energy levels of 5, 20, and 40 J. All data points are based on an average of four PPT pulses. Data analysis shows the temporal and spatial variation in the plume. Electron temperatures show two peaks during the length of the pulse, a trend most evident during the 20 J and 40 J discharge energies at 10 cm from the surface of the Teflon fuel bar. The electron temperatures after the initial high temperature peak are below 2 eV. Electron densities are highest near the thruster exit plane. At 10 cm from the Teflon surface, maximum electron densities are 1.04e20 ± 2.8e19 m-3, 9.8e20 ± 2.3e20 m-3, and 1.38e21 ± 4.05e20 m-3 for the 5 J, 20 J and 40 J discharge energy, respectively. The electrons densities decrease to 2.8x1019 ± 8.9e18 m-3, 1.2e20 ± 4.2e19 m-3, and 4.5e20 ± 1.2e20 m-3 at 20 cm for the 5 J, 20 J, and 40 J cases, respectively. Electron temperature and density decrease with increasing angle away from the centerline, and with increasing downstream distance. The plume is more symmetric in the parallel plane than in the perpendicular plane. Ion speed ratios are lowest near the thruster exit, increase with increasing downstream distance, but do not show any consistent angular variation. Peak speed ratios at a radial distance of 10 cm are 5.9±3.6, 5.3±0.39, and 4.8±0.41 for the 5 J, 20 J and 40 J discharge energies, respectively. The ratios increase to 6.05±5.9, 7.5±1.6, and 6.09±0.72 at a radial distance of 20 cm. Estimates of ion velocities show peak values between 36 km/s to 40 km/s, 26 km/s to 30 km/s, and 26 km/s to 36 km/s for the % J, 20 J, and 40 J discharge energies, respectively.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
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Zwahlen, Jurg C., "Investigation of a Pulsed Plasma Thruster Plume Using a Quadruple Langmuir Probe Technique" (2003). Masters Theses (All Theses, All Years). 33.
electric propulsion, spacecraft, langmuir probes, Pulsed power systems, Plumes (Fluid dynamics), Space vehicles, Propulsion systems, Electric propulsion