Analysis of a cusped helicon plasma thruster discharge Articles uri icon

publication date

  • October 2023

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 19


  • 10, 105013


  • 32

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0963-0252

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1361-6595


  • Experiments and simulations are used to analyze a compact helicon plasma thruster with a cusp in its internal magnetic field. The former rely on a compensated Langmuir probe and a Faraday cup, while the latter employ a hybrid PIC/fluid transport model combined with a frequency-domain electromagnetic field model. Measurements serve to tune the anomalous transport parameters of the model and overall show the same trends as the numerical results, including a secondary peak of electron temperature downstream in the magnetic nozzle, where electron cyclotron resonance conditions for the 13.56 MHz excitation frequency are met. The cusp plays a central role in determining the plasma losses to the walls and the profile of electron temperature, which in turn defines the excitation and ionization losses. While losses to the rear wall are reduced, losses to the lateral wall are increased, which, together with the low production efficiency, limit the performance of the device.


  • Aeronautics


  • helicon plasma thruster; radiofrequency thruster; electric propulsion; plasma simulation