Date of Award

6-2015

Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering

Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor

Kira Abercromby, Ph.D.

Abstract

A computational model of the micro-ion thruster MiXI has been developed, analyzed, and partially verified. This model includes submodels that govern the physical, magnetic, electrostatic, plasma physics, and power deposition of the thruster. Over the past few years, theses have been conducted with the goal of running tests and analyzing the results; this model is used to understand how the thruster components interact so as to make predictions about, and allow for optimization of, the thruster operation. Testing is then performed on the thruster and the results are compared to the output of the code. The magnetic structure of the thruster was analyzed and numerous different configurations generated which were also evaluated by the optimizer and tested. Using the different configurations, models, and optimization tools, the total efficiency of the thruster is theoretically able to reach 69.4%. Operational testing of the thruster at many different throttle settings demonstrated a maximum total efficiency of 45.9 ±24.6%, discharge loss values as low as 109 ±25 eV/ion, and total power required as low as 50.5 ±0.1W to maintain thruster operation with beam extraction. Measurements of the plasma were taken using a Langmuir probe and the interpretation of the tests are used to verify the plasma physics submodel. Power draw measurements and analysis of the throttle inputs during testing are compared to the performance model outputs but were not accurate or consistent enough to fully verify the power deposition and plasma physics models. Analysis of the models and operational testing in this study have led to an increased understanding of the performance and operation of the MiXI-CP-V3 thruster, furthering the effort to create an efficient, flight capable micro-ion thruster.