The Use of Laser-Induced Fluorescence to Characterize Discharge Cathode Erosion in a 30 CM Ring-Cusp Ion Thruster, National Aeronautics and Space Administr, 9781288915309


Relative erosion rates and impingement ion production mechanisms have been identified for the discharge cathode of a 30 cm ion engine using laser-induced fluorescence (LIF). Mo and W erosion products as well as neutral and singly ionized xenon were interrogated. The erosion increased with both discharge current and voltage and spatially resolved measurements agreed with observed erosion patters. Ion velocity mapping identified back-flowing ions near the regions of erosion with energies potentially sufficient to generate the level of observed erosion. Ion production regions downstream of the cathode were indicated and were suggested as possible sources of the erosion causing ions.

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