The High Power Helicon experiment was originally designed with multiple goals in mind, primarily to satisfy the need for a plasma source that can be scaled up to high output power levels without significantly increasing the physical size of the system. Initially the helicon was used as a plasma injection source for the Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion (M2P2) thruster. Transitioning to a thruster in its own right, we aimed to better understand the energy transfer from the helicon antenna to the plasma. The system was also intended to be a prototype thruster and source for magnetic nozzle experiments and more recently to study and improve the coupling between the helicon wave and the plasma particles downstream of the source. Recently, the lab has been experimenting with solid fuel thrusters and how they can couple into the Helicon experiment.
The APL has extensive history with high-power electronics testing, high-vacuum environment operation, and pulsed electric propulsion thrusters. We operate out of Johnson Hall on the University of Washington campus.