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[en] Highlights: • A high-current ion source is developed for NBI system of VEST. • A cold-cathode electron gun is employed to produce primary electrons. • A hemi-cylindrical discharge chamber with cusp magnetic field is used. • Plasma density is measured to be 2 × 10"1"8 m"−"3 near the extraction aperture. • NBI power of 90 kW with beam energy of 20 keV is expected to be achieved. - Abstract: A high-current pulsed ion source has been developed for the neutral beam injector of the VEST (Versatile Experiment Spherical Torus) to accommodate high-beta fusion plasma experiments. The ion source consists of two parts: an electron gun for supplying sufficient primary electrons by cold-cathode arc discharge and a hemi-cylindrical discharge chamber where uniform, high-density plasma generated by the primary electrons is confined by multi-cusp magnetic field. A pulse forming network is also developed to drive high current of ∼1 kA to sustain the cold-cathode discharge in the electron gun up to 10 ms. Diagnostics with a triple probe in the discharge chamber shows that a hydrogen plasma whose density is as high as 1 × 10"1"8 m"−"3 can be obtained near extraction slits at the gas pressure lower than 0.5 Pa. This value is estimated to be sufficient to deposit a heating power of 90 kW to the VEST plasma when the appropriate extraction through slits with 20 cm"2 in area and acceleration of ion beams up to 20 kV are fulfilled.