An in-flight plasma diagnostic package for spacecraft with electric propulsion

The plasma diagnostics presented in this article target the plasma surrounding a spacecraft that is created by the electric thruster and its surface modifying effects. The diagnostic package includes a retarding potential analyzer, a plane Langmuir probe, and an erosion sensor. The paper describes the instrument as well as suitable test environments for mimicking the effects expected in space and shows test results. The system is to fly for the first time on the Heinrich Hertz satellite, which is scheduled to be launched in 2023. The spacecraft will be equipped with a pair of Highly Efficient Multistage Plasma Thrusters (HEMPT) and a pair of Hall thrusters for redundancy.


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