Bismuth Hall Thruster Plume Impact Study

Award Information
Agency: Department of Defense
Branch: Air Force
Contract: FA9300-08-M-3005
Agency Tracking Number: F081-062-1340
Amount: $99,957.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2008
Solicitation Year: 2008
Solicitation Topic Code: AF081-062
Solicitation Number: 2008.1
Small Business Information
2521 7 Mile Point Rd, Allouez, MI, 49805
DUNS: 003583429
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Jason Sommerville
 Research Engineer
 (906) 370-2376
Business Contact
 Lyon King
Title: President
Phone: (906) 370-2376
Research Institution
Because of its condensable nature Bi may cause unacceptable spacecraft contamination when used as a Hall thruster propellant. Experiments are proposed to determine the potential for bismuth deposition on spacecraft surfaces. The proposing team’s extensive experience with bismuth technology has uncovered surprising bismuth/surface interaction kinetics that will greatly complicate deposition measurements: based on evidence observed over three years of bismuth thruster operation the proposing team has discovered that the largest source of bismuth contamination during ground-testing is attributable to facility effects. A Phase I research effort is described to assess and minimize the role of facility wall interactions in ground-test measurements of bismuth deposition rates. Plume properties will be measured in a 2-kW Bi thruster via Faraday probe, RPA, and ExB probe. Deposition rates will be quantified through QCMs. Careful control techniques utilizing both an electrically biased QCM as well as a collimated QCM staring into a patented “bismuth trap” will allow identification of facility-induced deposition rates separately from those that would occur in space. A Phase II program is described for building and testing a 20-kW bismuth thruster for contamination studies on a flight-relevant device. The possibility of using a bismuth plume for defensive counter-space is considered.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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