An apparatus and method for thrusting plasma, utilizing a Hall thruster with a cylindrical geometry, wherein ions are accelerated in substantially the axial direction. The apparatus is suitable for operation at low power. It employs small size thruster components, including a ceramic channel, with the center pole piece of the conventional annular design thruster eliminated or greatly reduced. Efficient operation is accomplished through magnetic fields with a substantial radial component. The propellant gas is ionized at an optimal location in the thruster. A further improvement is accomplished by segmented electrodes, which produce localized voltage drops within the thruster at optimally prescribed locations. The apparatus differs from a conventional Hall thruster, which has an annular geometry, not well suited to scaling to small size, because the small size for an annular design has a great deal of surface area relative to the volume.
CONTRACTUAL ORIGIN OF THE INVENTION AND STATEMENT AS TO FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH
Pursuant to 35 U. S. C. 202(c), it is acknowledged that the U. S. Government has certain rights in the invention described herein which was made in part with funds from the Department of Energy under Grant No. DE-AC02-76-CHO-3073 under contract between the U.S. Department of Energy and Princeton University. Princeton University has served notice that it does not wish to retain title to this invention.