Development of Plasma Codes for the Design of Mini-Helicon Thrusters

Abstract

A compact low-power plasma thruster using high-efficiency radiofrequency sources is currently under development by the European consortium HPH.com “Helicon plasma hydrazine combined micro” (7th Framework Programme of European Union). The main objective of the HPH.com research is to design, optimize and develop a spacecraft thruster based on radiofrequency plasma source working in the helicon range, and investigate on applications to mini-satellites for attitude and position control. The design of the thruster is pursued with a synergic theoretical and experimental approach, also thanks to the development of highly innovative plasma codes. These codes are allowing for the first time a detailed and quantitative characterization of the helicon physics involved in the RF coupling, and also on the physical mechanisms involved in the the plasma acceleration. In the present work we will give a brief overview of the four main codes developed during HPH.com. The two codes “Wavecode” and “EQM” allows to solve the RF electromagnetic fields occurring within the source and the macroscopic transport of plasma within the discharge at equilibrium. When coupled together, they allow a consistent evaluation of the discharge balances. The electromagnetic Particel-in-Cell “PartyWave” in cylindrical coordinates allows the evaluation of non-linear effects on the RF coupling. Finally, the 3D Particle-in-Cell F3MPIC will be briefly presented. It’s a generic and versatile threedimensional Particle-in-Cell working with a 3D mesh of tetrahedra moving particles in time domain, used for the thruster optimization, and working both in electrostatic and electromagnetic conditions, in kinetic-kinetic or hybrid kinetic-Boltzmann conditions. Finally few results obtained from the codes concerning the design of a low-power mini helicon thruster will be shown. ∗Researcher, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Padova, Italy, daniele.pavarin@unipd.it †Officer/Post-doc research assistant, CISAS “G. Colombo”, University of Padova, 35131 Padova, Italy, francesca.ferri@unipd.it ‡Post-doc, CISAS “G. Colombo”, University of Padova, 35131 Padova, Italy, marco.manente@unipd.it §Post-doc, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Padova, 35131 Padova, Italy, davide.curreli@unipd.it ¶PhD student, CISAS “G. Colombo”, University of Padova, 35131 Padova, Italy, davide.melazzi@gmail.com ‖Software Engineer, CISAS “G. Colombo”, University of Padova, 35131 Padova, Italy, davide.rondini@samplesw.com ∗∗Senior Scientist, Associazione EURATOM-ENEA, Frascati, Rome

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Pavarin2011DevelopmentOP, title={Development of Plasma Codes for the Design of Mini-Helicon Thrusters}, author={D. Pavarin and Fabio Ferri and M. Manente and D. Curreli and D. Rondini and Alessandro Cardinali}, year={2011} }