Presented by the University of Michigan

Plasma Propulstion to the Planets: The X3, a three-channel nested Hall plasma thruster, operating at 30 kW

Mar 26, 2018

Category: Space

Author: Scott Hall , Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory, University of Michigan


Plasma thrusters are now propelling spacecraft from earth to the planets. The highest-powered Hall thruster ever flown operates at 4.5 kW. The X3, a three-channel nested Hall thruster, is capable of operating at powers up to 200 kW, for applications including sending astronauts to Mars. The X3 was developed at the University of Michigan's Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory (PEPL) in collaboration with NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Here, the X3 operates at 30 kW power at PEPL during a shakedown test fire. The X3 can only be run at powers of about 50 kW at PEPL, so researchers plan to fire the thruster through its full range of operation at NASA GRC's test facilities soon.

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The Plasma Picture of the Day (PPoD) project is hosted by the University of Michigan and supported by the Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering (MIPSE), the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSensing and Systems (WIMS2), and the DOE Center for Predictive Control of Plasma Kinetics.

Acknowledgement: Dr. Zhehui (Jeff) Wang, Los Alamos National Laboratory