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3-D Computation of Plasma Thruster Plumes

3-D Computation of Plasma Thruster Plumes

Publication date: 12 July 2004

Authors: Passaro, A., et al.

Year: 2004

AIAA 2004-3632: Presented at the 40th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit 11 - 14 July 2004, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Electric propulsion represents one of the most promising technologies for application in future space missions. The knowledge of the plasma plume evolution in the thruster surrounding space is still of fundamental importance, at system design level, for new generation satellites, in order to integrate the propulsive subsystem with the other vehicle subsystems. Furthermore, the necessity to simulate realistic configurations leads to the need of powerful and flexible 3-D tools. Alta S.p.A. and Consorzio Pisa Ricerche developed a three-dimensional particle-in-cell code capable to simulate conditions found both in space and in ground vacuum facilities, for realistic satellite configurations for Hall Effect Thrusters and Gridded Ion Engines. The present article will present a brief description of the PICPluS 3D code, including the various physical models that can be used and the code validation. Numerical results related to the ESA's SMART-1 satellite, launched on 27 September 2003, will then be compared with flight data. Finally, an analysis of the influence of the simulation paramaters on the results will follow.

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