Thrust measurements and mesothermal plasma plume of the Alternative Low Power Hybrid Ion Engine (alphie)

TitleThrust measurements and mesothermal plasma plume of the Alternative Low Power Hybrid Ion Engine (alphie)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsL. Conde, J. Gonzalez, J.M. Donoso, J.L. Domenech-Garret, M.A. Castillo
JournalJournal of Electric Propulsion
Date Published12/2022

The high specific impulse Alternative Low Power Ion Engine (alphie) is a gridded plasma thruster different from conventional (Kaufman) ion engines. In this disruptive concept, the ionization of the propellant neutral gas and the neutralization of ion outflow is achieved with only one cathode located in front and outside of the thruster. Electrons and ions move under the self-consistent field created by the DC voltage applied to its two planar grids together with the currents of charges flowing through them, unlike to conventional ion engines, where only ions move through its ion optics system. The stationary mesothermal flow of ions and electrons in the plasma plume is characterized with a retarded field energy analyzer in conjunction with Langmuir and emissive probes. The ion velocity distribution functions and the electron energy spectra for different operating conditions of the alphie thruster are discussed. The observed high ion temperatures are explained by the collisional interaction between the fast ionizing electrons and the neutral atoms that increases their average kinetic energy. Finally, the alphie delivers 0.8-3.5 mN throttleable thrusts giving specific impulses in the range of 14000-20000 s with estimated thruster efficiencies between 8% and 40%.







Alternate TitleJ. Electr. Propols.

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