Experimental study of plasma separation from a magnetic field
Plasma rockets show potential as an alternative to chemical rockets. However, previous theoretical work and models have shown that a plasma would not easily detach from the magnetic field lines that form the magnetic nozzle. Recent theoretical work counters this view by showing that, as a plasma flows from subAlfvénic velocities to superAlfvénic velocities it will have enough energy to detach from the ambient magnetic field. This theory was tested experimentally at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in 2006. A model was developed to compare experimental densities and velocities with calculations. Results show that the plasma does detach from the ambient field lines in multiple magnetic field configurations.