Prediction and optimization of thrust performance from plasma diagnostics in the inductively coupled plasma of an RF ion thruster

Li Y., Chen Y., Liu S., Aslan A. R.

Acta Astronautica, vol.208, pp.130-141, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 208
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2023.03.038
  • Journal Name: Acta Astronautica
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Aerospace Database, Communication Abstracts, INSPEC, Metadex, Public Affairs Index, Civil Engineering Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.130-141
  • Keywords: Inductively coupled plasma, Kriging model, Radio-frequency, Radio-frequency ion thruster
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Ion thrusters have acquired extensive applications in the space industry with their advantages of high efficiency, high specific impulse, and long lifetime. To operate a radio-frequency (RF) ion thruster successfully, a high-frequency current must be generated to facilitate the discharge of inductively coupled plasma. In this study, with support of trial and error, it is discovered that the thrust performance of an RF ion thruster depends on not only the RF power but also on other critical parameters, such as the propellant flow rate, ion grids voltages, and RF input power. A surrogate model, namely – the Kriging model, is employed to simplify the estimation and optimization of thrust performance. The thrust and specific impulse are selected to be the crucial metrics for used Kriging models for categorizing all types of propulsions. On the basis of Kriging model simulations, the designed RF ion thruster can achieve a thrust of 1.9 mN, a specific impulse of 1649.5 s, and a thrust efficiency of 48% under a propellant flow rate of 4 sccm, grids’ voltage difference of 2500 V, and an RF input power of 40 W.