Electric Propulsion Laboratory

Our Electric Propulsion Laboratory is equipped with three vacuum chambers. Two vacuum chambers, named MSL-VC1 and MSL-VC2 are  L‐shaped, approximately 0.6 m diameter by 1.5 m long. The third chamber, MSL-VC3, is cylindrical with a diameter of about 0.5 m and a length of 0.6 m. 

Features and capabilities of our EP laboratory include:



  • Pumping Speed 2,200 l/s 
  • Base Pressure <1E-7 mbar 
  • MSL-VC1 is equipped with a direct impulsive thrust balance capable of measuring an impulse bit in the range 20 µNs to 120 µNs. The facility has been used to flight qualify the first PPT for CubeSat applications and to test a PPT for nano-satellite applications. 


  • Pumping Speed 8,600 l/s 
  • Base Pressure < 9E-8 mbar – operating pressure 5.2E-5 mbar with 20 sccm of Xe
  • MSL-VC2 is normally used to perform tests on hollow cathodes, hollow cathode thrusters and ring cusp ion thruster, including plasma measurements


  • Pumping Speed 2,200 l/s 
  • Base Pressure < 9E-8 mbar – operating pressure 1.1E-4 mbar with 20 sccm of Xe
  • MSL-VC3 is normally used to perform tests on hollow cathodes and on mini RF ion engine thruster. The chamber is equipped with a Residual Gas Analyser (0-200 amu)

Power supplies and measuring instruments

The laboratory has also all the supporting electronics and equipment needed to operate the three chamber independently and to test electric propulsion thrusters such as hollow cathodes, hollow cathode thrusters, resistojets, ion engines discharge chambers and PPTs. In particular several DC electric power supplies are normally used, including low and high voltage supplies (up to 15 kV) and low and high current supplies (up to 60 A). RF power supplies and generators are also available.

Diagnostic capabilities

Available diagnostics includes: 

  • High Voltage differential probes, Rogowski coils and current probed
  • High accuracy mass scale with a resolution of 10 µg
  • Several digital multi-meters
  • Thermocouples readers
  • Two 4-channel digital oscilloscopes
  • Real-time data acquisition and processing
  • Langmuir probes and RPAs
  • Residual Gas Analyser (up to 200amu) 

Learn More

Our facilities are available for external customers under suitable commercial arrangements

For more information please contact us

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