Carbon Cold Cathode Electron Sources for Low Power Electric Propulsion Thrusters

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: N/A
Agency Tracking Number: 990249
Amount: $0.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2001
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: N/A
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
3006 Longhorn Blvd., Suite 107, Austin, TX, 78758
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Richard Fink
 Director of Engineering
 () -
Business Contact
 Zvi Yaniv
Title: President and COO
Phone: (512) 339-5020
Research Institution
The innovation proposed here is the use of carbon thin film cathodes as an electron source for electric propulsion for microspacecraft applications. Hall and ion thrusters are two types of electric propulsion systems that are commonly used on earth-orbiting spacecraft and very recently on interplanetary probes. These propulsion systems use hollow cathodes to thermionically emit electrons that are used for propellant ionization and ion beam neutralization. These cathodes require propellants and heaters that place lower limits on their size and power scalability and efficiency. Field emission cathodes compatible with electric propulsion systems will fill voids in electric propulsion technology that are needed for deep-space microspacecraft applications. Other field emission electron sources such as metal microtip cathodes are unstable and strongly susceptible to damage in the thruster ion environment. Preliminary tests on carbon film cathodes show them to be much more robust. We propose to demonstrate the feasibility of using carbon cathodes in electric propulsion systems for microspacecraft applications.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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