12-15 July 2011
Saint George Hotel
Africa/Johannesburg timezone

Miniaturization of electrostatic ion engine through ionization/acceleration coupling: corona model

13 Jul 2011, 14:30


Oral Presentation Track F - Applied and Industrial Physics Applied


Mr Marius Tchonang Pokaha (Wits University)


Electrostatic ion propulsion systems resist miniaturization due to constraints imposed by the size of the discharge chamber. We introduce a thruster concept where the same field is responsible for both ionization of the neutrals and acceleration of the ions, by letting the neutral propellant gas escape into a high field region through a thin, hollow needle at high electric potential. The ionization mechanism is thus reminiscent of corona ionization. Although the thruster only ionizes a small fraction of the neutral gas, the ions nevertheless impart a great deal of momentum to the plume, creating an ion wind. We propose a model to estimate the electric behavior of the system, and two further models for the obtained thrust. A comparison with experimental data shows that the models capture the dominant physical effects and give a reasonable description of the system. Apart from being about a thousand times less massive than conventional systems, the thruster, which is at the proof-of-concept stage, performed quite well yielding around 0.3 mN/Watt during initial tests. The thruster small size and simplicity are advantageous in many situations, such as for satellite station keeping and deep space probes.

Consider for a student <br> &nbsp; award (Yes / No)? yes
Level (Hons, MSc, <br> &nbsp; PhD, other)? MSc
Would you like to <br> submit a short paper <br> for the Conference <br> Proceedings (Yes / No)? yes

Primary author

Mr Marius Tchonang Pokaha (Wits University)


Dr Phil Ferrer (Wits University)

Presentation Materials