Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Mark W. Richman, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

John J. Blandino, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Nikolaos A. Gatsonis, Advisor


Michael A. Demetriou




"The pulsed plasma thruster (PPT) is an onboard electromagnetic propulsion device currently being considered for use in various small satellite missions. The work presented in this thesis is directed toward improving PPT performance using a control engineering approach along with externally applied magnetic fields. An improved one dimensional electromechanical model for PPT operation is developed. This slug model represents the PPT as an LRC circuit with a dynamics equation for the ablated plasma. The improved model includes detailed derivation for the induced magnetic field and a model for the plasma resistance. A modified electromechanical model for the case of externally applied magnetic fields is also derived for the parallel plate geometry. A software package with a graphical user interface (GUI) is developed for the simulation of various PPT types, geometric configurations, and parameters The simulations show excellent agreement with data from the Lincoln Experimental Satellite (LES)-6, the LES-8/9 PPT and the Univ. of Tokyo PPT. The control objective employed in this thesis involves the maximization of the specific impulse and thrust efficiency of the PPT, which are each directly related with the exhaust velocity of the thruster. This objective is achieved through the use of an externally applied magnetic field as a system actuator. To simulate an open-loop constant-input controller the modified electromechanical PPT model is applied to the various PPT configurations. In this controller the external magnetic field was applied as constant throughout or portions of the PPT channel. For the Univ. of Tokyo PPT a magnetic field applied over the entire 6-cm long channel increases the specific impulse and thrust efficiency by 10% over the case that the filed is applied in the first 1.75 cm of the PPT channel. The magnitude of these increases compare well with the results of the UOT applied B-field experiments. For the LES-6 and LES-9 PPTs, the simulations predicts significant performance enhancements with approximately linear increases for the specific impulse, thrust efficiency and impulse bit. "


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mechanical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





electric propulsion, applied magnetic fields, pulsed plasma thruster, Pulsed power systems, Artificial satellites, Magnetic fields