MHD instabilities in magneto-plasma-dynamic thrusters

F. Paganucci, M. Zuin, M. Agostini, M. Andrenucci, V. Antoni, M. Bagatin, F. Bonomo, R. Cavazzana, P. Franz, L. Marrelli, P. Martin, E. Martines, P. Rossetti, G. Serianni, P. Scarin, M. Signori, G. Spizzo

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Magneto-plasma-dynamic thrusters (MPDTs) act as electromagnetic plasma accelerators and represent a high power, electric propulsion option for primary space missions. One of the major problems facing MPDT operation is the onset of a critical regime, which is found when the power is increased beyond a threshold value, depending mainly on the thruster geometry, the type and mass flow rate of the propellant and the intensity of the magnetic field applied. In this regime, large fluctuations in the electrode voltage signals, damage to the anode and decreased efficiency are observed. Since 2000, several test campaigns have been carried out to investigate the electrostatic and magnetic properties of plasma fluctuations using electromagnetic and optic probes and ultraviolet tomography. Results obtained have shown a strong relation between the onset phenomena and the growth of a large scale magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) instability, with helical kink mode features. On the basis of the experimental observations, a passive method to suppress instability is proposed and has been partially tested, with encouraging results. © 2008 IOP Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Article number124010
Pages (from-to)-
JournalPlasma Physics and Controlled Fusion
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Cite this

Paganucci, F., Zuin, M., Agostini, M., Andrenucci, M., Antoni, V., Bagatin, M., ... Spizzo, G. (2008). MHD instabilities in magneto-plasma-dynamic thrusters. Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, 50(12), -. [124010].