Centre-Triggered Pulsed Cathodic Arc Spacecraft Propulsion Systems
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
Satellites must carry some manner of propulsion system so that course correction or orbit stationkeeping manoeuvres can be carried out. Chemical thrusters have lower specific impulse than electric propulsion systems, and so focus has turned to using plasma and ion propulsion systems such as Hall Effect thrusters and gridded ion thrusters. Both of these systems use gaseous propellants and require a charge neutralisation system, both of which impose certain design compromises. This thesis explores the potential use of pulsed cathodic arcs as a spacecraft propulsion system, determining fuel specific impulse and jet power efficiency of a range of suitable materials over a range of arc currents and pulse durations. Comparisons between element classes are made, so as to identify candidate materials for various mission profiles. The results for magnesium in particular stand out as being comparable to several thruster technologies that are flight-rated.