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Center Innovation Fund: GRC CIF

Single Cathode Ion Thruster (SCIT)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Objective is to design an electrostatic ion thruster that is more efficient, simpler, and lower cost than the current gridded ion thruster. Initial objective is to design and test a lab model thruster to demonstrate feasibility and provide insight into optimizing the design.

The innovation proposed within is similar to a Hall thruster or the HEMPT with its single cathode, but is distinctly geared towards higher specific impulse than these thrusters operate. By using grids, the acceleration mechanism yields high specific impulse operation capability, a well collimated beam, and neutral containment for increased efficiency. The innovation proposed is a gridded ring cusp ion thruster that uses only one cathode for both neutralizing the beam and ionizing the propellant. This device would be a high-risk, high payoff device that significantly advances efficient, affordable in-space propulsion.

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