A promising aspect of inductive plasma generators for space propulsion applications is their electrodeless nature that leads to a high propellant compatibility and opens the door to in-situ resource utilisation propellants. To further develop inductive plasma generators as a space propulsion technology it is important to understand the relationship between system inputs (e.g. input power and propellant material) and system outputs (e.g. power efficiencies) to aid design and control. In this work, methodologies are developed for non-intrusively assessing the inductive coupling from antenna current measurements in terms of the ‘instantaneous ignition power’, the ‘inductive duty cycle’ and the ‘inductive frequency shift’. Experimental results are presented for IPG7, a high-power (up to 180 kW) 5.5-turn helical antenna inductive plasma generator. Potential in-situ resource utilisation materials oxygen and carbon-dioxide, and their respective mixtures with argon, are assessed in terms of their inductive coupling characteristics and resulting power efficiencies. Oxygen is shown to be an attractive propellant material, especially when supplemented with argon. In particular, high thermal efficiency (∼84%) can be achieved at high input powers. A basis is provided for understanding the power efficiencies of an inductive plasma generator in terms of non-intrusive antenna current measurements, to aid power supply sizing and to develop monitoring and control techniques for thruster applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aerospace Engineering