Dr Burak Karadag

Research Fellow

Academic and research departments

Surrey Space Centre.


M. Tisaev, B. Karadag, A. Lucca Fabris (2023)Influence of applied magnetic field in an air-breathing microwave plasma cathode, In: Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics56(46)465203 IOP Publishing

Abstract The air-breathing electric propulsion (ABEP) concept refers to a spacecraft in very-low Earth orbit (VLEO) ingesting upper atmospheric air as propellant for an electric thruster. This compensates atmospheric drag and allows the spacecraft to maintain its orbital altitude, removing the need for on-board propellant storage and allowing an extended mission duration which is not limited by propellant exhaustion. There is a need for development of a robust, high current density and long life cathode (or neutralizer) for air-breathing electrostatic thrusters as conventional thermionic hollow cathodes are susceptible to oxygen poisoning. An Air-breathing Microwave Plasma CAThode (AMPCAT) is proposed to overcome this issue through the use of a microwave plasma discharge, producing an extracted current in the order of 1 A with 0.1 mg s-1 of air. In this paper, the effect of varying magnetic-field strength and topology is investigated by using an electromagnet coil, which reveals a significantly different behaviour for air compared to xenon. The extracted current with xenon increases by 3.9 times from the zero-field value up to a peak around 150 mT magnetic-field strength at the antenna, whereas an applied field does not increase the extracted current with air at nominal conditions. A non-zero magnetic-field with air is however beneficial for current extraction at reduced neutral densities. A distinct increase in extracted current is identified at low bias voltages with air for a field strength of around 50 mT at the internal microwave antenna, consistent across varying field topologies. The effect of a lowered magnetic-field strength in the orifice region is investigated through the use of a secondary coil, resulting in an extracted current increase of 25 % for a relaxation from 6 mT to 1 mT, and demonstrating the beneficial impact of a locally reduced field strength on electron extraction.

Mansur Tisaev, Burak Karadag, Silvia Masillo, Andrea Lucca Fabris (2023)Performance and plasma diagnostics of the Air-breathing Microwave Plasma CAThode (AMPCAT) coupled to a cylindrical Hall thruster, In: Journal of applied physics134(19)

The Air-breathing Microwave Plasma CAThode (AMPCAT) has been developed for air-breathing electric propulsion in very-low Earth orbit. In this study, the standalone AMPCAT plasma characteristics are analyzed by means of several diagnostic tools and operation on xenon is compared to a conventional hollow cathode. A transition of AMPCAT extracted current from a lower (< 0.1 A) to higher-current ( >0.5 A) mode, triggered by increasing the negative cathode bias voltage, is accompanied by a significant rise in internal electron density and external electron temperature. The AMPCAT is coupled with a cylindrical Hall thruster in the 100–300 W power-level running on 0.5–0.7 mg/s of xenon, and the thrust is directly measured for cathode operation with both xenon and air. Stable thruster operation is demonstrated for the AMPCAT running on both propellants. For xenon, the performance is compared to a hollow cathode, which reveals matching discharge current profiles but a significantly higher thrust for the AMPCAT at low discharge voltages, approximately two times higher at 200 V. Langmuir probe measurements highlight a 30–40 V lower plasma potential in the cathode vicinity for the AMPCAT with xenon compared to both the hollow cathode and AMPCAT with air. This indicates a significantly improved coupling of cathode electrons to the thruster discharge, yielding an increased degree of ionization. Faraday probe and Wien filter results show that a larger current utilization efficiency drives the observed performance difference at low discharge voltages, rather than a significant change in ion acceleration or plume divergence.

T. Andreussi, E. Ferrato, C. A. Paissoni, A. Kitaeva, Giannetti, A. Piragino, S. Schaeff, K. Katsonis, Ch Berenguer, Z. Kovacova, E. Neubauer, M. Tisaev, B. Karadag, A. Lucca Fabris, M. Smirnova, A. Mingo, D. Le Quang, Z. Alsalihi, F. Bariselli, P. Parodi, P. Jorge, T. E. Magin (2022)The AETHER project: development of air-breathing electric propulsion for VLEO missions, In: CEAS space journal14(4)pp. 717-740 Springer Nature

The possibility of efficiently exploiting Very Low Earth orbits (VLEO) poses significant technological challenges. One of the most demanding constraints is the need to counteract the drag generated by the interaction of the spacecraft with the surrounding atmosphere. Funded by the European Commission under the H2020 programme, the Air-breathing Electric THrustER (AETHER) project aims at developing the first propulsion system able to maintain a spacecraft at very-low altitudes for an extended time. The main objective of the project is to demonstrate, in a relevant environment, the critical functions of an air-breathing electric propulsion system, and its effectiveness in compensating atmospheric drag. This achievement will involve multiple research activities, among which: (i) the characterization of specific application cases through an extensive market analysis in order to define specific requirements and constraints at different design levels, (ii) fulfilment of pertinent testing conditions of flight conditions on-ground, relevant to the specific mission cases, (iii) the development of critical technologies, in particular those relevant to the collection, the ionization and the acceleration of rarefied atmospheric mixtures and (iv) the testing of the RAM-EP thruster to assess the system performance. In this paper, the main activities foreseen in the AETHER project are described, providing the detailed perspective towards an effective exploitation of the project outcomes for a possible future in-orbit demonstration.