Microinstabilities in a 10-kilowatt self-field magnetoplasmadynamic thruster

Dennis L. Tilley, Edgar Y. Choueiri, Arnold J. Kelly, Robert G. Jahn

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15 Scopus citations


Theoretical studies indicate that a variety of microscopic and macroscopic plasma instabilities can significantly affect the performance of the magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster, yet experimental evidence for their existence is extremely limited. The objective of this research was to provide experimental evidence for the existence of microinstabilities in a 10-kW-class, self-field MPD thruster. The lower-bound of the range of thruster operating currents investigated in this study was set by the requirement that the electromagnetic thrust component be much greater than the electrothermal thrust component. The upper-bound of the operating current was set by the initial observation of high-frequency thruster voltage oscillations, which is usually associated with the onset of excessive thruster erosion. Experimental evidence for two microinstabilities was obtained in the near-field plume of the thruster: 1) the generalized lower hybrid drift instability and 2) the electron cyclotron drift instability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-389
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Propulsion and Power
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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