Project

High-power Hall Thrusters


The X3 operating at 30 kW in the LVTF.

project personnel
Sarah Cusson

previous personnel
Scott Hall, Michael McDonald, Daniel Brown, Bryan Reid, Jesse Linnell, Mitchell Walker, Peter Peterson, Richard Hofer, James Haas, Frank Gulczinski

project sponsors
AFOSR, AFRL, NASA GRC

associated thrusters
H6, X3, H9

The exact power level that qualifies as “high-power” in Hall thrusters is a shifting target. In the 1990s anything over a kilowatt would have been considered high power, yet with the advent of thrusters like the 50-kW NASA 457M and more recently nested thrusters like the X2, the bar has shifted and now it would be fair to say that “high-power” begins in the 5-10 kW range, if not higher. This increase in electrical power is largely driven by a decrease in the cost of onboard electrical power for spacecraft and the ever-present desire for increased thrust, which requires an increase in mass flow rate and thus electrical current as each propellant atom is ionized and ejected. In contrast the voltage range of Hall thrusters has remained surprisingly steady over the past few decades, residing generally in the 300 V range up until the early 2000s, when research at PEPL outlined improved magnetic circuit designs for efficient operation at higher voltages (see ref. 2). While Hall thrusters are still often run in the low hundreds of volts, operation at high efficiency up to 1000 V has been demonstrated at PEPL, approaching a domain traditionally reserved for gridded ion thrusters.

PEPL has designed, built, and extensively researched a family of 5-6 kW single channel thrusters, beginning with the 5-kW class P5 (co-developed with the AFRL, see ref. 1), followed by the 5-kW class NASA 173Mv1 and v2 (co-developed with NASA Glenn, see ref. 2), and more recently with a 6-kW laboratory model Hall thruster (co-developed with the AFRL and NASA JPL, see ref. 3). These thrusters have demonstrated improvements in magnetic field design and anode flow uniformity (see ref. 4) that push anode efficiencies up to nearly 70%. Leveraging these results and new design concepts like nesting and magnetic shielding, PEPL has recently designed and characterized higher-power thrusters: the two-channel X2 (10-kW class), the three-channel X3 (100-kW class), and the magnetically-shielded H9 (9 kW).

Selected Publications


  • Characterization of a 100-kW Class Nested-Channel Hall Thruster

    Hall, Scott J.

    University of Michigan, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2017

  • Control of the Electron Energy Distribution Function (EEDF) in a Hall Thruster Plasma

    Trent, K.

    University of Michigan, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2016

  • 30-kW Performance of a 100-kW Class Nested-Channel Hall Thruster

    Hall, S.J., Cusson, S.E., Gallimore, A.D.

    34th International Electric Propulsion Conference, Kobe, Japan, July 6-10, 2015

  • 30-kW Constant-Current-Density Performance of a 100-kW-class Nested Hall Thruster

    Hall, S.J., Cusson, S.E., and Gallimore, A.D

    MIPSE Graduate Symposium, Ann Arbor, MI, Poster, October 7, 2015

  • 30-kW Performance of a 100-kW Class Nested-Channel Hall Thruster

    Hall, S.J., Cusson, S.E., and Gallimore, A.D

    34th International Electric Propulsion Conference, Kobe, Japan, IEPC 2015-125, July 6-10, 2015

  • Implementation and Initial Validation of a 100-kW Class Nested-channel Hall Thruster

    Hall, S., Florenz, R., Gallimore, A., Kamhawi, H., Brown, D., Polk, J., Goebel, D., Hofer, R.

    50th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, Cleveland, OH, AIAA 2014-3815, July 28-30, 2014

  • Design of a 6-kW Hall Thruster for High Thrust/Power Investigation

    Haas, J. M., Hofer, R. R., Brown, D. L., Reid, B. M., Gallimore, A. D.

    54th JANNAF Propulsion Meeting, Denver, CO, May 14-17, 2007

  • The X3 100-kW Class Nested-Channel Hall Thruster: Motivation, Implementation, and Initial Performance

    Florenz, R

    University of Michigan, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2014

  • The Combination of Two Concentric Discharge Channels into a Nested Hall-Effect Thruster

    Liang, R.

    University of Michigan, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2013

  • Development and Characterization of High-Efficiency, High-Specific Impulse Xenon Hall Thrusters

    Hofer, R. R

    University of Michigan, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2004