An axisymmetric macroscopic model of the magnetized plasma flow inside the helicon thruster chamber is derived, assuming that the power absorbed from the helicon antenna emission is known. Ionization, confinement, subsonic flows, and production efficiency are discussed in terms of design and operation parameters. Analytical solutions and simple scaling laws for ideal plasma conditions are obtained. The chamber model is then matched with a model of the external magnetic nozzle in order to characterize the whole plasma flow and assess thruster performances. Thermal, electric, and magnetic contributions to thrust are evaluated. The energy balance provides the power conversion between ions and electrons in chamber and nozzle, and the power distribution among beam power, ionization losses, and wall losses. Thruster efficiency is assessed, and the main causes of inefficiency are identified. The thermodynamic behavior of the collisionless electron population in the nozzle is acknowledged to be poorly known and crucial for a complete plasma expansion and good thrust efficiency.

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