A Vacuum Arc Ion Thruster for Space Propulsion
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AbstractAlameda Applied Sciences Corporation (AASC) and its co-operative partner, the Plasma Applications Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (PAG/LBNL) propose to develop and commercialize a sub-kW vacuum arc ion thruster for electric propulsion and other government and commercial applications. The proposed thruster will use a solid propellant, which offers several advantages over Xenon or other gaseous ion thrusters. Ion beams of any of the solid metals of the periodic table as well as metallic compounds and alloys can be produced at peak ion beam currents of 1-10A, 1+ to 3+ charge states and with <20 mrad beam divergence. This implies that the thrust dynamic range of the vacuum are ion thruster could be as high as 1000:1. The Phase I effort will address the feasibility of such an approach. The Phase II effort will develop a 500W ion source for station keeping electric propulsion applications and validate the device at a facility selected by the Air Force. Following successful development in Phase II. The Phase III effort will commercialize the ion source and supply the sources to the government for electric propulsion applications as well as modify the source for other commercial applications.
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