NASA SBIR 2016 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 16-1 S3.02-7900
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Propulsion Systems for Robotic Science Missions
PROPOSAL TITLE: Low Cost, Pump-fed, Non-Catalytic Thruster for Secondary Payload Green Propulsion

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Flight Works, Inc.
17905 Sky Park Circle, Suite F
Irvine, CA 92614 - 6707
(949) 387-9552

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Nadim R Eid
17905 Sky Park Circle, Suite F
Irvine, CA 92614 - 6707
(949) 387-9552

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Eric Besnard
17905 Sky Park Circle, Suite F
Irvine, CA 92614 - 6707
(949) 387-9552

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 4

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Propulsion Systems for Robotic Science Missions is a Technology Available (TAV) subtopic that includes NASA Intellectual Property (IP). Do you plan to use the NASA IP under the award?

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Flight Works is proposing to expand its technology in micropump-fed propulsion, including 1U CubeSat green propulsion, to the development and demonstration of a low cost, pump-fed, cooled, non-catalytic 1-5 N-class AF-M315E thruster for secondary payload propulsion.
Typically, requirements imposed by the primary mission have led secondary payloads to have very limited propulsion capability. For earth orbiting spacecraft, the requirements to reenter within 25 years can be an issue. For lunar or interplanetary missions, lack of significant ΔV capability limits the science potential. For example, the system in the Mars Cube One 6U spacecraft is only capable of a few tens of m/s. Many such nanosats, including CubeSats slated to accompany the primary spacecraft towards Europa, could greatly benefit from real delta-V capability (> 1 km/s) while reducing risks to the primary payload. Flight Works is proposing to develop such capability and focus on the development of a pump-fed AF-M315E thruster. In the novel concept, propellant atomization is improved, conventional materials can be used for the injector and the valve, resulting in a more compact, lower cost, high performance thruster. Also, since the approach to ignition and combustion sustainment does not involve catalysts, the thruster life-limiting component is removed. This thruster is integrated into a micropump-fed system: there is no need for a separate pressurization, the propellant storage and feed system operates at low pressures, and lighter, conformal tanks can be used. This combination decreases system overall size and mass by 20-40% depending on the mission while reducing risks to the primary payload.
More generally, the technology is applicable to any propulsion system, whether primary or for attitude control, where hydrazine is currently used, and is competitive with bipropellant systems for microsats due to the reduced system mass.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The technology offers the means of drastically reducing the risks posed by secondary payload propulsion systems onto primary missions. It also drastically increases their mission capabilities (in terms of delta-V capabilities) by decreasing the mass, complexity and cost of space propulsion systems. As such, it can enable new secondary missions which would not be possible otherwise. This applies to all microsat and nanosat missions which could benefit from high thrust and delta-V around 1 km/s. For earth orbiting spacecraft, the technology allows deployment to the desired orbit, orbit or constellation maintenance, de-orbit. For lunar and interplanetary spacecraft, such as the CubeSats that will fly along with the primary spacecraft towards Mars or Europa, it enhances mission capability and open new avenues.

The technology can also be applied to conventional, larger spacecraft, both for primary propulsion (as it can easily be scaled up well over 100 lbf with very moderate power requirements) and attitude control where a pump can pressurize the inlet of sets of thrusters; the proposed concept could be used in any system currently using hydrazine.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
One area with potential for significant commercialization benefits is the New Space industry. Venture capitalists and other firms have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in business plans which rely on constellations of small satellites. Many of these spacecraft will need high performance, low cost chemical propulsion. One such example is SkyBox Imaging which will use a green propulsion system for its imaging constellation.

For the business case to close with those small spacecraft constellations, spacecraft acquisition costs must be minimized; these companies cannot afford purchasing a Chevy (the bus) if they need to also purchase a Ferrari engine to run it (the propulsion system). Yet, the current path taken by traditional aerospace propulsion suppliers leads to systems which are more expensive than those using hydrazine today. The novel concept proposed here combined with the pump-fed approach allows correcting this mismatch, resulting in a low-pressure, low cost, more compact and lighter system.

As such the technology has applications to any mission with propulsion needs, ranging from the small spacecraft where cost is a driver, to the larger buses (e.g. telecommunications) which can benefit from the performance and cost improvements. It is also applicable to DoD spacecraft and missiles including in Divert Attitude Control Systems.

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.)
Attitude Determination & Control
Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices
Space Transportation & Safety
Spacecraft Main Engine

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