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Title: Modelling and design of inductively coupled radio frequency gridded ion thrusters with an application to Ion Beam Shepherd type space missions
Author: Dobkevicius, Mantas
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 5209
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2017
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Recently proposed space missions such as Darwin, LISA and NGGM have encouraged the development of electric propulsion thrusters capable of operating in the micro-Newton (N) thrust range. To meet these requirements, radio frequency (RF) gridded ion thrusters need to be scaled down to a few centimetres in size. Due to the small size of these thrusters, it is important to accurately determine the thermal and performance parameters. To achieve this, an RF ion thruster model has been developed, composed of plasma discharge, 2D axisymmetric ion extraction, 3D electromagnetic, 3D thermal and RF circuit models. The plasma discharge model itself is represented using 0D global, 2D axisymmetric and 3D molecular neutral gas, and Boltzmann electron transport sub-models. This is the rst time such a holistic/comprehensive model has been created. The model was successfully validated against experimental data from the RIT 3.5 thruster, developed for the NGGM mission. Afterwards, the computational model was used to design an RF gridded ion thruster for an Ion Beam Shepherd (IBS) type space debris removal mission. Normally, the IBS method requires two thrusters: one for impulse transfer (IT) and one for impulse compensation (IC). This thesis proposes a novel thruster concept for the IBS type missions where a single Double-Sided Thruster (DST) simultaneously producing ion beams for the IT and IC purposes is used. The advantage of DST design is that it requires approximately half the RF power compared with two single-ended thrusters and it has a much simpler sub-system architecture, lower cost, and lower total mass. Such a DST thruster was designed, built and tested, with the requirements and constraints taken from the LEOSWEEP space debris removal mission. During the experimental campaign, a successful extraction of two ion beams was achieved. The thesis has shown that it is possible to control the thrust magnitudes from the IT and IC sides by varying the number of apertures in each ion optics system, proving that the DST concept is a viable alternative for the LOESWEEP mission.
Supervisor: Sandham, Neil Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available