With the size reduction of satellites, the need for miniaturized propulsion systems is increasing. This has led to research funding for the miniaturization of chemical and electric propulsion by NASA and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). Miniaturized electric propulsion research has been an active area of interest recently. Electric propulsion systems are interesting candidates for miniaturization due to efficiency and the reduction in onboard propellant and the ability to apply existing techniques in electronic fabrication.
A miniature electrostatic thruster is being developed in LTCC at Boise State University. The thruster is composed of an antenna to create the plasma, a cylinder to contain the plasma and grids to extract the plasma beam at high velocity. In this work, the development of the inductively coupled plasma (ICP) antenna in LTCC will be presented. This antenna is fabricated using DuPont's 951 Low Temperature Co-fired Ceramic (LTCC). A Direct Write is used to apply silver paste for the spiral ICP antenna. Using LTCC allows for the antenna to be embedded in the device under a thin sheet of LTCC dielectric, which protects the antenna from ion back bombardment during operation. This thin sheet is the seventh layer of the total device, with the ICP antenna one layer below the top. The design of the antenna is based on the research done by J. Hopwood. This paper discusses the fabrication and performance of the ICP antennas in LTCC. These ICP antennas are operated at pressures from 10 mTorr to 1 Torr with radio frequencies (RF) of 500 MHz to 1 GHz to inductively couple with low pressure argon to produce plasma. The performance of the antennas will be verified with data showing the start and stop power of the plasma at various pressures and an electric field map of the RF field above the antenna.