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Bi-Modal Micro-Cathode Arc Thruster for Cube Satellites Open Access

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A new concept design, named the Bi-Modal Micro-Cathode Arc Thruster (BM-μCAT), has been introduced utilizing features from previous generations of μCATs and incorporating a multi-propellant functionality. This arc thruster is a micro-Newton level thruster based off of vacuum arc technology utilizing an enhanced magnetic field. Adjusting the magnetic field allows the thrusters performance to be varied.The goal of this thesis is to present a new generation of micro-cathode arc thrusters utilizing a bi-propellant, nickel and titanium, system. Three experimental procedures were run to test the new designs capabilities. Arc rotation experiment was used as a base experiment to ensure erosion was occurring uniformly along each electrode. Ion utilization efficiency was found, using an ion collector, to be up to 2% with the nickel material and 2.5% with the titanium material. Ion velocities were also studied using a time-of-flight method with an enhanced ion detection system. This system utilizes double electrostatic probes to measure plasma propagation. Ion velocities were measured to be 10km/s and 20km/s for nickel and titanium without a magnetic field. With an applied magnetic field of 0.2T, nickel ion velocities almost doubled to about 17km/s, while titanium ion velocities also increased to about 30km/s.

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