Faculty Advisor

Gatsonis, Nikolaos A.


This project is part of a larger study to characterize pulsed plasma thruster plumes. An understanding of plasma plumes is necessary to determine potential plume/spacecraft interactions. The project's goal was to design and build an experimental setup capable of taking plume measurements of a NASA Glenn pulsed plasma thruster. The setup is based on triple Langmuir probes and is designed for use in a large vacuum facility at NASA Glenn Research Center. A probe support mechanism was designed to be able to move the probe along a straight line downstream of the thruster via the use of a translation table. This probe support was also designed with a servomotor to be able to rotate the probe itself in order to align it with the plume vector. The thruster was mounted on a turntable in order to align the probe along different angles with respect to the center of the Teflon fuel bar. This setup allows probe measurements to be taken on planes perpendicular and parallel to the thruster electrodes at arbitrary plume locations as well as the backflow region. This setup was designed to require a minimum number of pump-downs of the vacuum facilities, with pump-downs occurring only at changes in the plane of measurement.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Date Accepted

January 1999


Mechanical Engineering

Project Type

Major Qualifying Project


Restricted-WPI community only

Advisor Department

Mechanical Engineering