Direct thrust measurements and modelling of a radio-frequency expanding plasma thruster

T. Lafleur, K. Takahashi, C. Charles, R. W. Boswell

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49 Citations (Scopus)


It is shown analytically that the thrust from a simple plasma thruster (in the absence of a magnetic field) is given by the maximum upstream electron pressure, even if the plasma diverges downstream. Direct thrust measurements of a thruster are then performed using a pendulum thrust balance and a laser displacement sensor. A maximum thrust of about 2 mN is obtained at 700 W for a thruster length of 17.5 cm and a flow rate of 0.9 mg s-1, while a larger thrust of 4 mN is obtained at a similar power for a length of 9.5 cm and a flow rate of 1.65 mg s-1. The measured thrusts are in good agreement with the maximum upstream electron pressure found from measurements of the plasma parameters and in fair agreement with a simple global approach used to model the thruster.

Original languageEnglish
Article number080701
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Aug
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics


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