Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/1961
Date of Award
MS in Aerospace Engineering
With an increased demand in Cube Satellite (CubeSat) development for low cost science and exploration missions, a push for the development of micro-propulsion technology has emerged, which seeks to increase CubeSat capabilities for novel mission concepts. One type of micro-propulsion system currently under development, known as Pocket Rocket, is an electrothermal plasma micro-thruster.
Pocket Rocket uses a capacitively coupled plasma, generated by radio-frequency, in order to provide neutral gas heating via ion-neutral collisions within a gas discharge tube. When compared to a cold-gas thruster of similar size, this gas heating mechanism allows Pocket Rocket to increase the exit thermal velocity of its gaseous propellant for increased thrust. Previous experimental work has only investigated use of the gas discharge tube's orifice for propellant expansion into vacuum. This thesis aims to answer if Pocket Rocket may see an increase in thrust with the addition of a micro-nozzle, placed at the end of the gas discharge tube. With the addition of a conical ε = 10, α = 30° micro-nozzle, performance increases of up to 6% during plasma operation, and 25% during cold gas operation, have been observed. Propellant heating has also been observed to increase by up to 60 K within the gas discharge tube.