Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Kristina Lemmer, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jennifer Hudson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Pnina Ari-Gur, Ph.D.


ECR, electric propulsion, gridded ion thruster, ion thruster, plasma propulsion

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Plasma propulsion, a specific subset of electric propulsion (EP), is a class of space propulsion that produces plasma by excitation of a propellant at or above its ionization energy. This ionized propellant is then accelerated by an externally applied field (magnetic and/or electric) and produces thrust. There is an increasing need for miniaturization in spacecraft technology and the use of plasma EP devices in space propulsion. These systems provide an advantage over traditional chemical propulsion solutions which are less efficient and have more mass. Miniaturization of EP devices allows missions to have more space and mass available for their payloads or allows for a smaller launch vehicle. This translates to greater flexibility in mission design and reduces constraints.

This thesis is motivated by the endeavor for miniaturization and presents progress on the design and development of Western Michigan University’s (WMU) Miniature Gridded Electron Cyclotron Resonance (ECR) Ion Thruster (MGIT) developed in the Aerospace Laboratory for Plasma Experiments (ALPE). Analytical and numerical simulation models are investigated for initial design decisions and optimization techniques. The design and manufacturing processes are covered, and their advantages and disadvantages are addressed. Preliminary testing methods and results are discussed and compared against the analytical and numerical methods used in the initial design phase to verify model robustness and address any weak points in the initial phase of development. The current iteration of the thruster uses a microwave (MW) input frequency of 4.98 GHz and operates at a flow rate of 3 sccm using argon gas as its propellant with an input microwave power of 1-10 W.