Low–voltage External Discharge Plasma Thruster and Hollow Cathodes Plasma Plume Diagnostics Utilising Electrostatic Probes and Retarding Potential Analyser
Sammanfattning: The present thesis is the result of a research period at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, ISAS/JAXA within Funaki Laboratory of the Department of Space Flight Systems that followed the path of plume plasma diagnostics for space electric propulsion drives. During the experimental studies two high-current hollow cathodes and an innovative prototype of a low-voltage fully external discharge plasma thruster (XPT) had their plasma plumes diagnosed using electrostatic probes and retarding potential analyser (RPA). A Hall thruster and hollow cathode plume is defined as an unmagnetised quasi-neutral plasma which is mainly formed of neutral particles, electrons, singly and doubly charged ions. Plasma diagnostic techniques provide information through practical observations in order to fully understand the dynamics of the aforementioned plume components, the physical processes taking place within the plume and their effects on the spacecraft, for instance. Mastering these aspects of the plasma plume of space electric propulsion drives bolster the design processes, leading to highly efficient devices. Firstly, the introduction provides insights on the fundamental principles of hollow cathodes and Hall thrusters and a brief presentation of the plasma diagnostic techniques used during the research: single and double Langmuir probes, emissive probes and retarding potential analyser. Then, the fundamental plume diagnostics principles are depicted in an exhaustive way, departing from classical plasma kinetic theory, energy distribution functions and ending with an overview on the theory of charge collection by cylindrical probes. Subsequently, peculiarities of various analysis techniques are exposed for the Langmuir probes, emissive probes and RPA, with an emphasis on their strengths and demerits. The experimental setups for the cathodes and XPT plume diagnostic procedures are then outlined. The experimental logic, setup and electrical diagrams as well as a presentation of each probe design and manufacturing details are extensively discussed. The hollow cathodes experimental results are exposed with a discourse that aims of overviewing the difference between the various data analysis methods applied for the raw data. A discussion ensued based on the results in order to effectively identify mechanisms that produced the observed plasma parameters distributions. For the first time, the plume of a fully external discharge plasma thruster was diagnosed utilising double Langmuir probes. The thesis highlights the main results obtained for the XPT far-field plume plasma diagnostics. The experimental findings for both thruster centreline positions and 2D plume maps for several axial distances away from the anode plate offer a ground basis for future measurements, a comparison term and a database to support ongoing computational codes. The results are discussed and related to the thruster performances data obtained during previous experiments. The thesis includes consistency analyses between the experimental data and the numerical simulation results and the uncertainties in measured plasma parameters associated with each data analysis procedure are evaluated for each data set. Last, the conclusions underline the main aspects of the research and further work on the previously mentioned plasma diagnostic techniques for hollow cathodes and XPT is suggested.
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