A pulse-compression-ring circuit for high-efficiency electric propulsion.

The Review of scientific instruments

PubMedID: 18377034

Owens TL. A pulse-compression-ring circuit for high-efficiency electric propulsion. Rev Sci Instrum. 2008;79(3):034701.
A highly efficient, highly reliable pulsed-power system has been developed for use in high power, repetitively pulsed inductive plasma thrusters. The pulsed inductive thruster ejects plasma propellant at a high velocity using a Lorentz force developed through inductive coupling to the plasma. Having greatly increased propellant-utilization efficiency compared to chemical rockets, this type of electric propulsion system may one day propel spacecraft on long-duration deep-space missions. High system reliability and electrical efficiency are extremely important for these extended missions. In the prototype pulsed-power system described here, exceptional reliability is achieved using a pulse-compression circuit driven by both active solid-state switching and passive magnetic switching. High efficiency is achieved using a novel ring architecture that recovers unused energy in a pulse-compression system with minimal circuit loss after each impulse. As an added benefit, voltage reversal is eliminated in the ring topology, resulting in long lifetimes for energy-storage capacitors. System tests were performed using an adjustable inductive load at a voltage level of 3.3 kV, a peak current of 20 kA, and a current switching rate of 15 kA/micros.