Particle-in-cell/Monte Carlo (PIC/MCC) and Direct Simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) algorithms comprise a numerical model to assess the propulsive capability of a RF plasma microthruster concept. This thruster concept is an electrothermal device and exploits RF capacitively coupled discharge (RFCCD) to heat a propellant. This RF plasma microthruster has potential to alleviate some severe constraints on microsatellite propulsion systems such as power, mass, volume and lifetime. The discharge characteristics are investigated by permuting electrode geometry (0.5 - 10 mm) and applied voltage (10 - 500 V) at a constant RF frequency of 200 MHz and a pressure of 3 Torr. PIC/MCC simulations determine the overall trends in plasma characteristics within this parameter space. The PIC/MCC modeling showed that increases in applied potential and inner radius transmit more power to the fluid. A gas heat transfer model enhanced the original PIC/MCC code to reflect effects of neutral gas temperature in the plasma.


This is the published version of W. B. Stein*, A.A. Alexeenko, and I. Hrbud. 2008. “RFCCD Microthruster Performance via Numerical Simulation”. First published as an AIAA 6th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit Paper and is available online at: http://arc.aiaa.org/doi/pdf/10.2514/6.2008-962.

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