Harold R. Kaufman

Physicist, Person

1926 –


Who is Harold R. Kaufman?

Harold R. Kaufman is an American physicist, noted for his development of electrostatic ion thrusters for NASA during the 1950s and '60s. Kaufman developed a compact ion source based on electron bombardment, the "Kaufman ion source," a variant of the duoplasmatron, for the purpose of spacecraft propulsion.

Born in Audubon, Iowa, USA, in 1926, Kaufman grew up in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He trained in electrical engineering during WWII through an electronic technician program in the US Navy. After the war ended, he took a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University. After college he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA, working on turbo jet engines at the Lewis Research Center in Cleveland.

He then moved to a group studying electric space propulsion. After concluding that a Von Ardenne source was insufficient, he developed the electron bombardment source in 1958/59., and was responsible for the development of two ion thrusters that were tested in space. The Kaufman ion source is now also used for other applications, such as ion implanters used in semiconductor processing.

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Also known as
  • Harold Kaufman
  • United States of America

on July 23, 2013


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