A report discusses a new multi-turn, multi-lead design for the first generation PT-1 (Plasmoid Thruster) that produces thrust by expelling plasmas with embedded magnetic fields (plasmoids) at high velocities. This thruster is completely electrodeless, capable of using in-situ resources, and offers efficiencies as high as 70 percent at a specific impulse, Isp, of up to 8,000 s. This unit consists of drive and bias coils wound around a ceramic form, and the capacitor bank and switches are an integral part of the assembly. Multiple thrusters may be ganged to inductively recapture unused energy to boost efficiency and to increase the repetition rate, which, in turn increases the average thrust of the system.
The thruster assembly can use storable propellants such as H2O, ammonia, and NO, among others. Any available propellant gases can be used to produce an Isp in the range of 2,000 to 8,000 s with a single-stage thruster. These capabilities will allow the transport of greater payloads to outer planets, especially in the case of an Isp greater than 6,000 s.
This work was done by Peter Fimognari of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Richard Eskridge, Adam Martin, and Michael Lee of Marshall Space Flight Center. MFS-32364-1