Diagnostics of the start-up process of an arc hollow cathode

David Belt, John Mankowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hall-effect thrusters scaled to power levels below 300 W are of great interest due to their compact size but still require further system optimization. A major component of these thrusters is the free electron source. The majority of the current systems utilize heated element hollow cathodes, but in the event of heater failure, the overall system becomes inoperable. For this reason, a simplistic alternate system such as an arc hollow cathode has been examined. The drawback of utilizing the arc hollow cathode is the reduction in the operational lifetime, especially when the cathode experiences multiple start-up cycles. In order to remedy this, we have developed a soft start-up and continuous operation power supply system. Utilizing this system, we were able to minimize the start-up process from the lifetime influences and examine other factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1210-1211
Number of pages2
JournalIEEE Transactions on Plasma Science
Issue number4 PART 1
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Arc hollow cathode
  • Cathodes
  • Compact thruster
  • Electric breakdown
  • Electrical
  • Electron tubes
  • Hall effect thruster
  • Heating
  • Low power
  • Materials
  • Plasmas
  • Propulsion
  • Space propulsion


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