Plasma engines for space propulsion generate plasma jets (also denominated plasma plumes) having supersonic ion groups with typical speeds in the order of tens of kilometers per second, which lies between electron and ion thermal speeds. Studies of the stationary plasma expansion process using a four-grid retarding field energy analyzer (RFEA), an emissive probe(EP) and a Langmuir probe (LP), all mounted on a three dimensionally (3D) displaced multiprobe structure are discussed. Specifically, the determination of plasma beam properties from the RFEA current–voltage (IV) characteristic curves is presented. The experimental results show the ion energy spectra to be essentially unchanged over 300 mm along the plasmajet expansion axis of symmetry. The measured ion velocity distribution function (IVDF) results from the superposition of different ion groups and has two dominant populations: A lowenergy group constituted of ions from the background plasma is produced by the interaction of the plasma jet with the walls of the vacuum chamber. The fast-ion population is composed of ions from the plasma beam moving at supersonic speeds with respect to the low-energy ions. The decreasing spatial profiles of the plasma-jet current density are compared with those of the low-energy ion group, which are not uniform along the axis of symmetry because of the small contributions from other ion populations with intermediate speeds.
|Title of host publication||Proceedings of the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Adelaide, Australia, 25-29 September 2017|
|Number of pages||9|
|Publication status||Published - 2017|