Force probes for development and testing of different electric propulsion systems
Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics, Universität Kiel, Kiel, Germany
2 Laboratory for Enabling Technologies, Airbus, Friedrichshafen, Germany
3 Institut de Combustion Aérothermique Réactivité et Environnement, Orléans, France
4 Institute of Aerospace Engineering, Chair of Space Systems, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
Accepted: 23 May 2022
Published online: 7 June 2022
Diagnostics with force probes in plumes of electric propulsion systems for spacecraft (thrusters) are presented. This contribution focuses on showing example measurements with force probes for the most common gridless ion thruster types. The gridless thrusters are investigated at typical operation modes with a force probe at fixed or variable positions in the plume. The probe measures the force on a tiny plate that is attached to a sensitive cantilever in the plume. The elastic deflection of the cantilever is measured interferometrically and translated into a proportional force. Several variants of the instrument have been developed. A HEMP thruster is investigated with a variant of the force probe that simultaneously measures two components of the force vector. With this vectorial probe, it is possible to determine the force vector acting on the probe target while moving the probe through the thruster plume. A Hall thruster is investigated with a simplified variant of the probe, which measures the force along one axis and is equipped with an additional shutter in front of the target. This allows monitoring over long periods of operation. Finally, a force probe is used as an indirect thrust balance for a FEEP thruster. In this case, the force probe can collect the entire plume.
Key words: Electric spacecraft propulsion / Beam diagnostic / Force measurement / Momentum transfer
© The Author(s) 2022
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