Plume characterization of electric solid propellant pulsed microthrusters

Matthew S. Glascock, Joshua L. Rovey, Shae Williams, Jason Thrasher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electric solid propellants are an attractive option for propulsion because they are ignited only by an applied electric current. This leads to capabilities such as on-demand throttling and reignition in chemical combustion operation, and it lends itself to application in electric propulsion. In this work, the plasma plume created by electric solid propellant pulsed microthrusters is investigated using a nude Faraday probe, a triple Langmuir probe, and residual gas analysis. The thrusters are tested at a vacuum level of 2 × 10-5torr. Results indicate an average plume electron temperature of 1.7 eV and a density of 1011 to 1014cm-3. Atime-of-flight analysis indicates an exhaust velocity of 1500-1650 m/s on the centerline. Additionally, ionization fraction is estimated to be 0.3% for an ablation mass bit of 215 μg on average. Thermal equilibrium and adiabatic expansion calculations suggest a nonequilibrium gas with high-Temperature electrons and lower-Temperature neutral and ion species. Results indicate the pulsed microthruster operates similar to a coaxial pulsed plasma thruster, which is dominated by electrothermal effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-880
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Propulsion and Power
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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