The mini-helicon thruster for 'CubeSat' nano-satellites: Experiments and simulations

Alex Bennet, Kazunori Takahashi, Christine Charles, Andrew Bish, Rod Boswell, Akira Ando, Robert Georges, Abdessamad Benidar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Commercial space companies and space agencies are responding to society's growing interest in access to space, i.e. satellites on low or geostationary Earth orbits and long term exploratory missions to moons, planets or asteroids. Radiofrequency electrode-less neutralizer-free plasma engines are good candidates for providing extended lifetime, power scaling and broad choice of propellant (including use of spacecraft systems' residues and of 'green' and safe propellants). Obtaining good performance within a small volume and mass is challenging both for new and mature technologies (such as ion gridded thrusters, Hall effect thrusters, arcjets). Here the development of the Mini-Helicon Plasma Thruster (MiniHel) will be presented with particular emphasis on the role of the geometric and magnetic nozzle. Testing of various configurations (plasma cavity size and shape) is carried out in the WOMBAT vacuum chamber equipped with a range of diagnostics (thrust balance, optical and electrostatic probes) and newly developed technologies (miniaturized frequency variable matching system, Oregon Physics broadband radiofrequency amplifier). The results are used to develop computer simulations aiming at a better understanding of the physics and thrust generation in the nozzle.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication68th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2017
Subtitle of host publicationUnlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation, IAF
Pages8813-8816
Number of pages4
ISBN (Print)9781510855373
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1
Event68th International Astronautical Congress: Unlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security, IAC 2017 - Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 2017 Sep 252017 Sep 29

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
Volume13
ISSN (Print)0074-1795

Other

Other68th International Astronautical Congress: Unlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security, IAC 2017
CountryAustralia
CityAdelaide
Period17/9/2517/9/29

Keywords

  • Cubesat
  • Propellant
  • Propulsion
  • Radiofrequency
  • Thruster

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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  • Cite this

    Bennet, A., Takahashi, K., Charles, C., Bish, A., Boswell, R., Ando, A., Georges, R., & Benidar, A. (2017). The mini-helicon thruster for 'CubeSat' nano-satellites: Experiments and simulations. In 68th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2017: Unlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security (pp. 8813-8816). (Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC; Vol. 13). International Astronautical Federation, IAF.