Pulsed thrust measurements using laser interferometry

E. A. Cubbin, J. K. Ziemer, E. Y. Choueiri, R. G. Jahn

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The final design of an optical Interferomefcric Proximeter System (IPS) for measuring the thrust of pulsed thrusters, in particular pulsed plasma thrusters, has been completed. This paper reports the recent improvements of the IPS and reviews the basic principles. Unlike existing thrust stands, the IPS-based thrust stand offers the advantage of a single system that can yield EMI-free, high accuracy (< 2% error) thrust measurements within a very wide range of impulses (100 μN-s to above 10 N-s) covering the impulse range of all known pulsed plasma thrusters. At very low thrust levels the IPS becomes ideally suited for measuring the performance of steady state thrusters such as the FEEP thruster. The IPS is capable of measuring steady state thrust values as low as 10 μN-s. The IPS-based thrust stand relies on measuring the dynamic response of a swinging arm using a two-sensor laser interferometer with 10 nm position accuracy. The wide application of the thrust stand is demonstrated with thrust measurements of an ablative pulsed plasma thruster (APPT) and a gas-fed Magnetoplasmady- namic (MPD) thruster. The LES 8/9 APPT average mass bit and efficiency are presented. Lastly, a power spectrum method is presented for maximizing the signal to noise ratio of the experiment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 1996
Event32nd Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, 1996 - Lake Buena Vista, United States
Duration: Jul 1 1996Jul 3 1996


Other32nd Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, 1996
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLake Buena Vista

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Pulsed thrust measurements using laser interferometry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this