High-Power Helicon Double Gun Thruster
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While chemical propulsion is necessary to launch a spacecraft from a planetary surface into space, electric propulsion has the potential to provide significant cost savings for the orbital transfer of payloads between planets. Due to extended wave particle interactions, a plasma thruster that can operate in the 100 kW to several MW power regime can only be attained by increasing the size of the thruster, or by using an array of plasma thrusters. The High- Power Helicon (HPH) Double Gun thruster experiment examines whether firing two helicon thrusters in parallel produces an exhaust velocity higher than the exhaust velocity of a single thruster. The scaling law that relates the downstream plasma velocity with the number of helicon antennae is derived, and compared with the experimental result. In conjunction with data analysis, two digital filtering algorithms are developed to filter out the noise from helicon antennae. The scaling law states that the downstream plasma velocity is proportional to square root of the number of helicon antennae, which is in agreement with the experimental result.