Calculation of the main working characteristics of ion thruster capacity of 20-30 W

Aircraft engines and power generators


Aldonin F. I.*, Akhmetzhanov R. V.**

Moscow Aviation Institute (National Research University), 4, Volokolamskoe shosse, Moscow, А-80, GSP-3, 125993, Russia

**e-mail: ahmetzhanov1991@mail.ruv


Recently low mass satellites (up to 100 kilograms) are actively developed and created. These devices can be used for remote sensing of the Earth and for other purposes. To maintain the orbit of these satellites and to increase their active lifetime and the share of the payload we should have the appropriate engines to control their orbital motion. As these engines can be used electric propulsion with the power of several tens watts, which are having significantly greater lifetime and specific impulse compared to liquid-propellant rocket engines.

This article presents the results of studies on the development and creating of the laboratory sample of radio-frequency ion thruster (RIT) with a capacity of 20-30 watts. Calculation of the basic operating characteristics of power consumption for the 20, 25 and 30 watts had been done. It was shown that the efficiency of the engine can be achieved up to 32%, with the thrust of the engine up to 0.5 mN. For the three modes of operation of the engine (at different power consumption mentioned above) calculation of basic geometric parameters of the electrodes of the grid system, which allow to achieve calculated characteristics of the engine, was done. Calculation of geometric parameters was performed in the software package IGUN. As input data were specified current density of ion beam and the electron temperature of the plasma in the discharge chamber and the potentials of the electrodes of the grid system of the thruster.

The design of the engine was made. It was given the constructive scheme of the laboratory sample of radio-frequency ion engine that meets the calculated results of the study. Currently the process of manufacturing of thruster’s parts and components is going on. Thus, an inductor, a ceramic discharge chamber and the electrodes of the grid system and electrode holders were made.

In the future it is planned to make an experimental test of the sample of radio-frequency ion thruster capacity of 20-30 watts based on facility of the Moscow Aviation Institute in order to confirm the calculated characteristics.


High-frequency ion engine, ion-optical system, small spacecraft


  1. Ovchinnikov M.Yu. «Malyshi» zavoevyvayut mir. Sbornik nauchno-populyarnykh statei — pobeditelei konkursa RFFI 2007 goda, Moscow, 2008, p.17- 29.

  2. Loeb H.W. Principle of radio-frequency ion thrusters RIT. RIT-22 demonstrator test of Astrium ST at University of Giessen, 06-11 September, 2010.

  3. Goebel D.M., Katz I. Fundamentals of electric propulsion: Ion and hall thrusters. Jpl space science and technology series, California, the USA, 2008.

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