Bismuth Hall Thruster Plume Impact Study

Award Information
Agency:
Department of Defense
Branch
Air Force
Amount:
$99,957.00
Award Year:
2008
Program:
SBIR
Phase:
Phase I
Contract:
FA9300-08-M-3005
Agency Tracking Number:
F081-062-1340
Solicitation Year:
2008
Solicitation Topic Code:
AF081-062
Solicitation Number:
2008.1
Small Business Information
AEROPHYSICS, INC.
2521 7 Mile Point Rd, Allouez, MI, 49805
Hubzone Owned:
N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
N
Woman Owned:
N
Duns:
003583429
Principal Investigator:
Jason Sommerville
Research Engineer
(906) 370-2376
jdsommer@mtu.edu
Business Contact:
Lyon King
President
(906) 370-2376
lbking@mtu.edu
Research Institution:
n/a
Abstract
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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