Plasma thrusters fall into the category of electric thrusters, and use electric or magnetic fields to accelerate the propellant. They are used as orbital boosters or can be used as the main propelling engine in deep space maneuvers. Unlike a conventional rocket engine operating with chemical based solid or liquid fuels, these systems use plasma as their fuel.
The energetic ions and electrons within the plasma can be accelerated together, or an ion beam can be extracted and accelerated to a high velocity in order to generate the necessary thrust in the opposite direction. A variety of designs to generate and accelerate the plasma can be grouped broadly into Hall thruster, RF (Helicon) thruster and microwave (ECR) thruster.
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