Bismuth Hall Thruster Contamination Characterization and Mitigation

Award Information
Agency: Department of Defense
Branch: Air Force
Contract: FA9300-08-M-3007
Agency Tracking Number: F081-062-0580
Amount: $99,992.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2008
Solicitation Year: 2008
Solicitation Topic Code: AF081-062
Solicitation Number: 2008.1
Small Business Information
PLASMA CONTROLS, LLC
1180 La Eda Lane, Fort Collins, CO, 80526
DUNS: 809071538
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Casey Farnell
 Principal Investigator
 (970) 581-2239
 Casey.Farnell@plasmacontrols.com
Business Contact
 Casey Farnell
Title: President, Plasma Controls, LLC
Phone: (970) 581-2239
Email: Casey.Farnell@plasmacontrols.com
Research Institution
N/A
Abstract
Hall thrusters operated with bismuth propellant provide performance and cost advantages over devices operated with xenon propellant. However, bismuth propellant also has the potential to transport onto, and contaminate, spacecraft surfaces. Before the promise of bismuth thrusters can be exploited, the threat of contamination must be (1) quantified by Air Force (AF) modelers and (2) found to be mitigate-able. Before starting, the modelers require data on bismuth neutral and ion properties like condensation probability, sputter yield, charge exchange cross section, etc., as a function of energy, angle of incidence, surface material, etc. Other necessary data include the effects of bismuth film thickness on the optical properties (i.e., solar absorptivity and hemispherical emissivity) of cover glass, radiators, and Kapton blankets for example. Plasma Controls, LLC proposes to meet these AF needs through the development of robust plasma diagnostic tools that can operate in plasmas containing condensable conductive constituents. Our approach is to use an existing bismuth ion source along with existing vacuum chamber test facilities, sputter deposition tools, thin-film characterization instruments, and related support equipment of our collaborator, Colorado State University, to develop and test the proposed Plasma Controls diagnostic equipment and obtain preliminary bismuth data required by the Air Force.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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