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Micro-Cathode Arc Thruster System for Cube Satellite Open Access

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AbstractThe micro-cathode arc thruster (µCAT) is a micro-Newton level thruster based vacuum arc and enhanced by magnetic field as plasma source. A magnetic coil was mounted co-axis of thruster channel. The magnet field enhanced system is capable of adjusting thrust (from 0.106µNs at B=0T to 1.056µNs with B=0.3T), which leads the thruster to be eligible for different space missions. The net weight of µCAT system including the power processing unit is low as 500 g. The thruster power level is lower than 1 W. This thruster is proposed to address the long-time operational issues inherent with micro-thrusters for nano-satellite propulsion.The primary objective of this dissertation is to present a new generation micro propulsion system. Due to an external magnetic field has been applied on thruster, the thruster performance with the effect of magnetic field has been characterized. The thruster long time operation was obtained from the cathode spot characterization, in which the applied magnetic field leaded a cathode spot rotation. The relationship between the magnetic field strength and rotation speed has been built. The increase of thruster mass consumption rate was found through the mass consumption rate experiment with the different magnetic field strength applied. The total ion output increased upto 50 times (B=0.3 compared with without magnetic field) though the application of magnetic field. The plasma plume propagation outside of thruster channel has been characterized and it was found the plasma plume was guided along the magnetic field line. The thruster ion speed under different magnetic field strength has been measured, it was found that the ion speed could reach 31km/s with B=0.3T, whereas only 18km/s without magnetic field. The total thrust impulse has been measured, it was found that the thrust increased upto 10 times (0.106µNs at B=0T to 1.056µNs B=0.3T) by increasing the magnetic field from 0 to 0.3T. The magnetic field increased the thruster overall efficiency (upto 8% at B=0.3T). The application of magnetic field decreased the backflux contamination on satellite.

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