Radio Frequency Ion Thrusters Operated with Non-Conventional Propellants


Lotz B. *, Collingwood C. M.**, Feili D. ***




By European Space Agency (ESA) subcontract, the University of Giessen investigated a 10 cm diameter Radio Frequency (RF) ion thruster RIT-10 operated with atmospheric gases. Such «RAM-EPs» will be used for air drag compensation of very low orbit satellites which take the propellant from the ambience. The performance tests have been carried out in the large Giessen test facility «Jumbo» with Nitrogen, Oxygen, and with a mixture of both, without and finally with 10 % of Xenon additive. The discharge characteristics showed the known graphs. Also in accordance with theory, the generated thrust at a given beam current was about a half compared with xenon operation. Maximum thrust was found to be 8 mN. A 500 hours endurance test showed no degradation effects.


radio frequency ion thruster; test power supply; flow control unit; thrust; efficiency; discharge characteristics

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