Effect of source diameter on helicon plasma thruster performance and its high power operation

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Thrust imparted by a helicon plasma thruster is experimentally measured for two different diameter source tubes. The measurements demonstrate that the thrust-over-power of the helicon thruster can be increased by enlarging the source diameter. This result is qualitatively understood with a simple analysis connecting a global model in the source and a one-dimensional magnetic nozzle model, where the model does not include the magnetic field effect in the source and the cross-field diffusion effect in the magnetic nozzle. A mass flow rate of propellant argon and a magnetic field strength are experimentally surveyed; then the thrust of ∼18 mN is obtained for the rf power of 1 kW, the 95 mm diameter source, and the largest solenoid current being tested, while the maximum thrust for the 26 mm diameter source is only 5 mN. Furthermore the rf power is increased up to ∼6 kW and a thrust close to 60 mN is obtained.

Original languageEnglish
Article number055004
JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Aug 13


  • electric propulsion
  • helicon thruster
  • thrust measurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics


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