Micro Ion Plamsa Thruster Development
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3 Years running
I am currently involved in a project to be the first person in Ireland to design and build, and hopefully test an Ion Plasma Drive. So if you want to be involved in a small part of Irish history please read further. What is a Hall Thruster? Hall ...

I am currently involved in a project to be the first person in Ireland to design and build, and hopefully test an Ion Plasma Drive. So if you want to be involved in a small part of Irish history please read further. What is a Hall Thruster? Hall thrusters are ion thrusters that operate by accelerating a propellant with an electric field. Electrons from a hollow cathode are trapped in a magnetic field and are then used to ionize the propellant. The ions are then accelerated to produce thrust. Additional electrons emitted from the cathode are used to neutralize the beam. Hall thrusters can operate on a variety of propellants, usually Xenon or Argon, and can attain high specific impulse which is important. This is due to the low levels of thrust that is normally produced by a hall thruster. The high specific impulse however means that over a period of time hall thrusters can achieve much greater velocities than conventional chemical engines. In orbit today there are many hall thrusters in use, the vast majority are used to maintain geo-orbit, however a few have been successfully used to power probes and other research craft. Why are they important? Hall thrusters are important because they offer a real capability to be used for deep space missions, as they use very small amounts of propellant and can achieve very high velocities over time, and with the right amount of research and funding may even be used for manned missions. There has been much speculation about the possibility of using them in a Mars mission, and it has been suggested that they would likely shorten the time. Currently there is demand for micro-thrusters as the idea of cube sats becomes increasingly of interest. Imagine the possibility of creating hundreds of tiny shoe-box sized satelites or probes that would be propelled by tiny micro-thrusters. They would be far less expensive than their chemical counterparts, and would have the potential to reach further than we have yet managed to go. The Project Currently; a successful design has been created and the micro-thruster is in the process of being assembled. Final assembly should be completed by the end of the month, after which testing will commence. In order to test the thruster and any future projects a micro-thruster test facility is required. This would involve the purchase of an ultra high vacuum chamber, mass flow controllers, high voltage power supplies, electrical and gas feed-through for the chamber. Additionally a balance beam will be manufactured to test the thrust of the micro-thruster and any future projects. Other equipment may also be purchased to facilitate further testing of thruster characteristics. With the required funding of 20000, testing and further development could commence within 2-3 months.The future aim of this project is to develop a standard scaling model for hall thrusters, and hopefully develop a micro-thruster that is capable of breaking the elusive 1N of thrust mark.

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