Characteristics analysis of stationary plasma thruster

Aeronautical and Space-Rocket Engineering

Thermal engines, electric propulsion and power plants for flying vehicles


Semenenko D. A.1*, Saevets P. A.1**, Komarov A. A.1***, Rumyantsev А. V.2****

1. Experimental Design Bureau “Fakel”, 181, Moskovsky av, Kaliningrad, 236001, Russia
2. Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, IKBFU, 14, A. Nevskogo str., Kaliningrad, 236041, Russia



An important task in the thruster design is determining its basic geometrical dimension, which will define its thrust and specific characteristics. By specifying the main standard size of the thruster, we lay the foundation of the design and therethrough directly determine its operating range. Thus, it is especially important to understand what parameters can be obtained from the thruster at the initial stage of its design.

To solve the set problem, it was necessary to switch to dimensionless parameters that would characterize the thrust and specific characteristics of the thruster. The presented work derives the basic dimensionless parameters, characterizing the thruster operation from the viewpoint of energy consumption and working fluid utilization. The obtained coefficients allow characterizing the thruster operation regardless of its geometric dimension, and comparing operation parameters of thrusters of different standard sizes operating in different power ranges among themselves.

Thus, analysis of stationary plasma thrusters, developed by the “Fakel” Design Buro, was performed by the newly presented dimensionless parameters. The analysis was conducted for a single working liquid, namely Xenon, and a single discharging voltage of 300 V. As the result, the dependencies of the working liquid utilization factor and consumption ratio on the discharge current density were obtained.

It should be noted that, despite the differences in the thrusters’ standard sizes and the sizes of the discharge channel, the curves with characteristic working zones were obtained for the entire family of thrusters. The optimal operating range for stationary plasma thrusters, which corresponds to the discharge current density from 0.07 to (0.015–0.02) A/cm2, depending on their design features, was determined in the course of the analysis.

Eventually, with known operating power range, necessary for set task accomplishing, it is possible to determine geometric dimension of the thruster based on the optimal operation area of the engine, as well as define approximated thrust and specific characteristics of the thruster being developed by simple transformations, obtained dependencies of working liquid utilization factor and energy consumption ratio.


stationary plasma thruster, integral characteristics, discharge current density, power of costs, energy efficiency, working fluid utilization factor


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