Faculty Advisor

Gatsonis, Nikolaos A.


Electric propulsion thrusters are low-thrust, high-specific impulse systems that need to operate for thousands of hours during their mission life. Determining service life and predicting failure modes using probabilistic methods is important for proper thruster design and integration on the spacecraft, without the need of excessive physical tests. This project developed a computer program to improve the calculation of probalistic failure analysis of the NSTAR ion thruster. The program is applied to failure analysis of the accelerator grid due to screen erosion from ion impingement. The physical model of the screen erosion includes non-deterministic coefficients, which are sampled from various probability distributions. The estimated times to failure are compared favorably with previous work. The program, written in C++, is designed in a modular form that allows for easy application of other ion-thruster failure mechanisms.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Date Accepted

January 2000


Mechanical Engineering

Project Type

Major Qualifying Project


Restricted-WPI community only

Advisor Department

Mechanical Engineering