NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-1 S3.04-8182
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Propulsion Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: Nitrous Oxide Micro Engines

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Pioneer Astronautics
11111 W. 8th Avenue, Unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215 - 5516
(303) 980-0890

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Robert Zubrin
11111 W. 8th Avenue, Unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215 - 5516
(303) 980-0890

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Nitrous Oxide Micro Engines (NOME) are a new type of nitrous oxide dissociation thruster designed to generate low levels of thrust that can be used for RCS control in large satellites or as main propulsion in micro-satellites. Nitrous is the ideal propellant choice for RCS control in satellites due to the fact that it is non-toxic, non-cryogenic, easily storable, self-pressurizing, and cost effective (unlike monopropellant engines that use hydrazine or hydrogen peroxide which are toxic and/or dangerous, increasing ground costs). NOME engines will have all the desirable features of other monopropellant engines (i.e. simplicity of design, restartable/control on demand, and repeatability) NOME engines will also have a comparable ISP to current monopropellant engines (near 190s) but will be made to achieve greater simplicity and lower handling costs than current systems. NOMEs will have over double the Isp of cold gas reaction control systems.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Potential applications for NOME are numerous for NASA. NOME technology would be a novel hardware solution for anywhere an inexpensive, simple, low-thrust rocket engine could be used. Particular areas of interest would be RCS control of satellites, and main propulsion for micro-satellites, or even for propulsion of free-flying telerobots (such as have been discussed for Shuttle, Orion, ISS, or Hubble inspection applications). Currently, the primary RCS propellant used on spacecraft is hydrazine, which is extremely toxic and which therefore greatly complicates and increases the cost of ground handling operations prior to launch. Another key advantage for NASA would be the use of NOME RCS for any spacecraft that employs nitrous technology for other applications. NOME thrusters could be used for ultra fine control EVA thrusters if a nitrous breathing system was being employed, or used as RCS on a manned spacecraft which employed a nitrous-based oxygen supply system. The breathing and NOME subsystems could draw their nitrous from the same reservoir, thus adding to the over all simplicity of the system. Furthermore, NOME could be used on any spacecraft that used a nitrous based main propulsion system (either as a monopropellant, or combining nitrous with a hydrocarbon in a bipropellant or hybrid engine). The overall result of using a non-toxic RCS propellant that serves other spacecraft functions as well would produce major gains in performance and system simplicity.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
NOME technology also has the potential to be applied to numerous different areas. The first of these potential applications would be high altitude or undersea fuel cells. When nitrous is dissociated it produces nitrogen and oxygen gas. The oxygen gas could then be used with either hydrogen or methanol fuel cells to produce electricity. The nitrous reactor could be run for a short time to pressurize a cylinder with a plug of nitrogen/oxygen mix, which could then slowly be siphoned off to be used within a fuel cell. Another particularly interesting technology would be to pass the NOME reactor exhaust through a turbine and, using a generator, creating a very compact miniature power unit. NOME reactors could also include use on micro Sea Gliders to produce rapid buoyancy changes in this type of vehicle over very small periods of time. These small sea gliders would be able to travel underwater without propeller noise, providing numerous potential applications for both civil and military undersea use. NOME technology could also be used to create gas generators that could supply emergency breathing gas to trapped miners, people in underground shelters, or submarines through dissociation of reserve nitrous oxide.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.)
Essential Life Resources (Oxygen, Water, Nutrients)
Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Propulsion
Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices
Robotics (see also Control & Monitoring; Sensors)
Spacecraft Main Engine
Vehicles (see also Autonomous Systems)

Form Generated on 09-03-10 12:12