Preliminary spectroscopic measurements for a Gallium Electromagnetic (GEM) thruster

Robert E. Thomas, Rodney L. Burton, Nick G. Glumac, Kurt A. Polzin

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


As a propellant option for electromagnetic thrusters, liquid gallium appears to have several advantages relative to other propellants. The merits of using gallium in an electromagnetic thruster (EMT) are discussed and estimates of discharge current levels and mass flow rates yielding efficient operation are given. The gallium atomic weight of 70 predicts high efficiency in the 1500-2000 s specific impulse range, making it ideal for higherthrust, near-Earth missions. A spatially and temporally broad spectroscopic survey in the 220-520 nm range is used to determine which species are present in the plasma and estimate electron temperature. The spectra show that neutral, singly, and doubly ionized gallium species are present in a 20 J, 1.8 kA (peak) arc discharge. With graphite present on the insulator to facilitate breakdown, singly and doubly ionized carbon atoms are also present, and emission is observed from molecular carbon (C2) radicals. A determination of the electron temperature was attempted using relative emission line data, and while the spatially and temporally averaged spectra don't fit well to single temperatures, the data and presence of doubly ionized gallium are consistent with distributions in the 1-3 eV range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCollection of Technical Papers - 43rd AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference
Number of pages11
StatePublished - 2007
Event43rd AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference - Cincinnati, OH, United States
Duration: Jul 8 2007Jul 11 2007

Publication series

NameCollection of Technical Papers - 43rd AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference


Other43rd AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCincinnati, OH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science


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