2. Electric space propulsion

Electric space propulsion

  • School of Engineering/Graduate School of Engineering
  • Department of Aerospace Engineering
  • (Shock Wave and Space Propulsion Laboratory)

Sasoh Akihiro [Professor]

Outline of Seeds

Our team has used the cusp magnetic field downstream from a helicon plasma source to create a field-free area and has developed the technology to generate 100-volt magnitude ion beam flow. We are looking to apply these technologies to original, electrically-powered rocket engines for space propulsion.

Novelty and originality of this research

A helicon plasma source can generate plasma with a density of around 1019 [/m3] relatively easily. Also, because there are no electrodes involved, it avoids the conventional problems associated with electrode erosion. Electrode-free methods have been used for acceleration and heating in the past, but our technologies are particularly innovative and advanced in that they apply special magnetic field configurations to achieve electrostatic acceleration.

Application and research area for Industry collaboration

Our aim is to create an original, Japan-made electrically powered rocket for space propulsion, but we also welcome industrial-academic collaboration that would allow us to apply our work to other technologies as well.

Key Takeaway

Research published in Applied Physics Letters (online, November 11, 2011)


Plasma, space propulsion, helicon plasma source


  • Helicon plasma electrostatic acceleration technology


  • Vacuum chambers: (1) internal diameter 2 m and length 4 m, (2) internal diameter 1.2 m and length 3.2 m

Monographs, Papers and Articles

  • S. Harada et al., "Electrostatic Acceleration of Helicon Plasma using a Cusped Magnetic Field," Applied Physics Letters, 105, 194101 (2014)