The reduced propellant flow rates associated with high performance arcjets have placed new emphasis on electrode erosion, especially at startup. A soft-start current profile was defined which limited current overshoot during the initial 30 to 50 ms of operation, and maintained significantly lower than the nominal arc current for the first eight seconds of operation. A 2-5 kW arcjet PPU was modified to provide this current profile, and a 500 cycle test using simulated fully decomposed hydrazine was conducted to determine the electrode erosion during startup. Electrode geometry and mass flow rates were selected based on requirements for a 600 sec specific impulse (mission average) arcjet system. The flow rate was varied throughout the test to simulate the blow down of a flight propellant system. Electrode damage was negligible at flow rates above 33 mg/s, and minor chamfering of the constrictor occurred at flow rates of 33 to 30 mg/s, corresponding to flow rates expected in the last 40 percent of the mission. The soft-start current profile significantly reduced electrode damage when compared to state-of-the-art starting techniques.
Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit
- Pub Date:
- June 1993
- Arc Jet Engines;
- Mass Flow Rate;
- Orbit Transfer Vehicles;
- Spacecraft Propulsion and Power