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RAP opportunity at Naval Research Laboratory     NRL

Propellant Agnostic Plasma Thruster and Cathode Research


Naval Research Laboratory, DC, Spacecraft Engineering Department

opportunity location
64.15.86.C0647 Washington, DC 203755321


name email phone
Michael S McDonald 202.404.3680


The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Spacecraft Propulsion Section, part of the Spacecraft Engineering Division, maintains active research in reactive plasma sources with in close cooperation with the NRL Plasma Physics Division.  The development of such plasma sources finds broad applications in both aerospace and plasma engineering, from plasma actuation to materials processing. In the area of plasma propulsion, the NRL Spacecraft Propulsion Section is developing Hall thrusters and associated cathode electron sources capable of operation on several gaseous species including air, carbon dioxide, and water vapor, rather than typical noble gases. 

We seek excellent candidates to support research and development of these flexible plasma propulsion systems. This includes the measurement of plasma properties using in-situ and optical diagnostics to understand the principles of system efficiency and translate these fundamental findings into novel designs. The candidate will make use of modern manufacturing techniques for rapid prototyping and investigate the use of new materials to achieve the program goals. A highly qualified candidate will have demonstrated experience working with electric propulsion systems, in generating RF plasmas, global modeling of multi-species plasmas, with standard plasma diagnostics such as RF compensated Langmuir probes, and CAD. Ideally, the candidate will also has exposure or hands-on experience with Hall thrusters and RF cathodes.

Candidates will interface with personnel in both the Spacecraft Engineering and Plasma Physics Divisions. Facilities available include high-vacuum test chambers and supporting equipment for plasma operation and plasma diagnostic evaluation in representative aerospace environments, dedicated ultra-high vacuum material characterization facilities, a wide variety of plasma diagnostic tools, high-power laser equipment, and access to DoD HPC simulation resources.

key words
Plasma; Cathode; Space; Spacecraft; RF; ICP; ECR; Propulsion; Diagnostics; Experimental; Design; Test; Vacuum; Chemistry; Electron; Hall Thruster;


Citizenship:  Open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents
Level:  Open to Postdoctoral applicants


Base Stipend Travel Allotment Supplementation
$94,199.00 $3,000.00
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