Sep 20

Discharge-mode testing of the X-EPT microwave ECR gridded Ion thruster for telecoms applications

David Hoffman and Dr Angelo Grubisic

Presented at the 36th International Electric Propulsion Conference
University of Vienna • Vienna, Austria
September 15-20, 2019


A low-cost, 20-cm-diameter microwave electron cyclotron resonance ion thruster (Xenon Electric Propulsion Thruster, XEPT) has been built and tested in discharge only mode to investigate the suitability of the technology for commercial satellite missions. Thruster design makes use of selective laser melting, a metal additive manufacturing technique, and off-the-shelf components wherever possible. This includes a 2.45 GHz solid state microwave generator and a magnetic circuit formed by small, samarium cobalt and neodymium magnets. These two magnetic materials were tested in two layouts in combination with end-wall and side-wall propellant (argon) injection ports. The preliminary aim of the XEPT project is to achieve 80% of the performance of the µ20 thruster in terms of ion production cost and mass utilisation efficiency. The current version of XEPT met the stated ion production cost target but did not yet reach the stated mass utilisation efficiency target.