Pulsed (quasi-steady) solid propellant magnetoplasmadynamic thruster operation has been investigated both in the self-induced and applied magnetic field cases. Input parameters have been varied in order to analyze performance (in particular impulse bit) dependance on these parameters. The stored energy per shot has been set to four values between 2000 and 3000 J, while magnetic field has been set to six values between 0 and 159 mT. Impulse bit has been evaluated through a thrust stand technique: a brief overview of this method is given together with a description of the data processing procedure. Current measurements allow to use Maeker's formula as a reference for comparison between theoretical and empirical results as well as between self and applied field operation. Appreciable improvements of the thruster impulse bit performance have been noticed for defined sets of stored energy and applied field values. An inductive interaction between the magnet coil and the laboratory facilities, resulting in thrust stand displacement, has been observed: this phenomenon and its consequences on measurements have been investigated. A target used as a ballistic pendulum, insensitive to magnetic coupling, has been employed to acquire a new set of measurements: the results obtained with the target technique show a maximum discrepancy of 5% when compared with the measurements derived from the thrust stand technique. Finally, the thrust stand measurements appear to be affected by the inductive interactions only for very high values of the applied field. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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