Evaluation of a ferroelectric cathode for use in electric propulsion [abstract]
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Electric propulsion is used to keep communication satellites in the proper position relative to Earth and for propulsion on deep space probes. One part of the propulsion system, the cathode, is required for the neutralization of charge particles beams. For charging control of spacecraft and small spacecraft, like electric micropropulsion thrusters or magnetodynamic tethers, a small, low mass, expellantless cathode technology is a must. Hence, alternative cathodes have been the subject of much recent research. One such technology is the ferroelectric cathode. Our research is on ferroelectric cathodes for neutralization of spacecraft. Measurements include cathode life time, electron emission current and average dissipated power. The cathodes will be developed as an outgrowth of the Ferroelectric Plasma Thruster work (FEPT). The Ferroelectric Plasma Thruster utilizes an applied radio frequency electric field to create plasma on the surface of a ferroelectric dielectric. Acceleration of ions from this plasma provides thrust. The presentation will also include details on the design, construction and testing of a high vacuum test facility. This facility will be build for future cathode and micropropulsion research.