Evaluation of a Planar Scandate Cathode for Hall Thruster Operation

Allison E. Timm, Joshua L. Rovey, Bernard Vancil

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


Cathodes are often implemented as a component of electrostatic electric propulsion devices to enable plasma production and to minimize spacecraft charging. However, cathodes can be a limiting factor on the lifetime and operation of thrusters due to eventual degradation of the emitting surface. This study evaluated the operational characteristics and plasma plume properties of a planar scandate cathode to assess the feasibility of the cathode supporting operation of a Hall effect thruster. The cathode was operated in a pure xenon environment within a sealed vacuum tube. Two operational modes were studied: cup connected and cup disconnected. In each mode, the cathode was operated at a series of heater voltages and anode currents to investigate operational behavior. Analysis of the cup disconnected data produced plasma plume properties including the electron current, electron current density, electron density, plasma density, and electron temperature. The cathode produced a maximum electron current of 3 A, a maximum electron current density of 616 A cm2 at the cup orifice, an average electron density and plasma density on the order of 1013 cm−3 , and an electron temperature ranging from 0.53 eV to 0.87 eV. These plasma properties are comparable to the plasma plume properties generated by hollow cathodes that have successfully operated with a Hall effect thruster. The planar scandate cathode has been shown to produce 3 A of electron current which suggests that it may operate any Hall thruster that requires a discharge current of up to 3 A. Since the planar scandate cathode produces plasma properties that are comparable to existing cathodes and sufficient electron current to operate a Hall thruster, it is reasonable to conclude that the cathode should be considered as a candidate for Hall thruster operation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA SciTech Forum and Exposition, 2024
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
ISBN (Print)9781624107115
StatePublished - 2024
EventAIAA SciTech Forum and Exposition, 2024 - Orlando, United States
Duration: Jan 8 2024Jan 12 2024

Publication series

NameAIAA SciTech Forum and Exposition, 2024


ConferenceAIAA SciTech Forum and Exposition, 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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