An E X B discharge has been used to ignite a hollow cathode arc in a convenient and reliable manner.

Voltage-current characteristics of this auxiliary high pressure magnetron discharge in argon have been measured in the pressure and magnetic field ranges of our usual hollow cathode arc operation parameters. Two stable branches of the characteristics can be distinguished, resembling arc and abnormal glow discharges. In both regimes measurements of heat generation at the electrodes show that about 75% of the generator power is transferred to the cathode by the ion current. When cathode temperatures above 1300 K are reached, the main hollow cathode discharge can be started easily.