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Title: Operation of an auto-initiated pulsed plasma thruster
Authors: Kushari, A.
Loh, K. 
Keywords: Artificial satellites
Control systems
Plasma physics
Issue Date: 1-Jan-2010
Citation: Kushari, A., Loh, K. (2010-01-01). Operation of an auto-initiated pulsed plasma thruster. Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology 82 (2) : 83-90. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to develop and characterize a pulsed plasma thruster (PPT) that does not need a spark plug to initiate the plasma discharge. Design/methodology/approach - Two parallel rail thrusters were built and their performances were characterized inside a vacuum chamber to elucidate the effect of vacuum level and thruster geometry on the performance. The thruster electrical performance was quantified by measuring the voltage output from a Rogowski coil connected to the power supply. The thrust produced by the developed thruster was estimated by measuring the force exerted by the plume on a light weight pendulum, whose deflection was measured using a laser displacement sensor. Findings - The thruster can operate without a spark plug. In general, the performance parameters such as thrust, mass ablation, impulse bit, and specific impulse per discharge, would increase with increasing pressure levels up to an optimum level due to the increase in discharge energy as well as the decrease in the total impedance of the plasma discharge. The discharge frequency is function of the breakdown potential, the total resistance in the equivalent circuit, and the capacitance of the circuit. The total impedance of the circuit decreases with pressure level and hence the discharge energy increases. The thrust efficiency is found to be affected by the thruster geometry as well as the discharge energy. Research limitations/implications - The studies reported in this paper have been carried out at relatively higher pressure levels compared than prevail in space. However, it should be possible to extrapolate these results to the lower vacuum levels at which the performance is independent of the geometry. Practical implications - The results reported in this paper suggest a design guideline for auto-initiated PPT. Originality/value - If the spark plug is eliminated, the size of the thrusters can be reduced and arrays of such thrusters can be manufactured using micro electro mechanical systems techniques, which can provide tremendous control authority over the satellite positioning. © 2010 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Source Title: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology
ISSN: 00022667
DOI: 10.1108/00022661011053373
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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