Communications impact of hall effect plasma thrusters
Dickens, James C.
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A Hall effect thruster is an electric space self-induced electric field. Because the exhaust plume of a Hall effect thruster is an propulsion device, in which a gas (typically Xenon) is ionized and accelerated by a ionized gas, the thruster's plume can affect the propagation of electromagnetic radiation. These effects could have a significant impact on the channel capacity of satellite communication systems. The first part of the study was devoted to developing a far field plume model that can predict both the spatial and temporal number density in the plume of three different Hall effect thrusters. The spatial dependence of the number density in the plume was determined using a swept Langmuir probe. The temporal dependence was determined using a high speed Langmuir probe positioned along the centerline of the plume. In an effort to verify the far field number density plume model, a sampling microwave interferometer was developed, that can accurately measure the phase shift of microwave signals propagating through the plume of a Hall effect thruster. The interferometer was used to measure the phase shift of a 6 GHz microwave signal during the startup of a Hall effect thruster with several different propagation paths A comparison between the model predicted phase shift and the experimentally obtained phase shift are made. A microwave spectrum analyzer was used to qualify and quantify the plumes effect on the phase noise of a microwave signal propagating through the plume.