Date of Award

6-2012

Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering

Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor

Kristina K. Jameson

Abstract

Over the last decade, miniature ion thruster development has remained an active area of research do to its low power, low thrust, and high efficiency, however, due to several technical issues; a flight level miniature ion thruster has proved elusive. This thesis covers the design, fabrication, assembly, and test of an altered version of the Miniature Xenon Ion thruster (MiXI), originally developed by lead engineer Dr. Richard Wirz, at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In collaboration with Dr. Wirz, MiXI-CP-V3 was developed at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with the goal of implementing of a ¼ inch hollow cathode and 3mmx3mm plasma confinement magnets in order to improve the plasma confinement characteristics, reliability, and performance of the MiXI design. Operational testing revealed a mass utilization efficiency of 35-75% and a discharge loss of 550-1200 eV/ion over plasma discharge currents of 0.5-1.5A and propellant flow rates of 0.8-1.3 SCCM. Testing revealed that the MiXI thruster can be operated with a hollow cathode and observations and data gained from this study have led to a greater understanding of the operational parameters of the MiXI thruster, and will contribute to the development and advancement of the MiXI baseline design, with the goal of creating an efficient and reliable flight level miniature ion thruster.

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