NASA SBIR 2017 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 17-2 Z8.01-9758
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Small Spacecraft Propulsion Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: Fiber-fed Advanced Pulsed Plasma Thruster (FPPT)

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
CU Aerospace, LLC
301 North Neil Street, Suite 502
Champaign, IL 61820 - 3169
(217) 239-1703

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Curtis Woodruff
301 N. Neil St.-Suite 502
Champaign, IL 61820 - 3169
(309) 255-8442

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr. David Carroll
301 North Neil Street, Suite 502
Champaign, IL 61820 - 3169
(217) 239-1703

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 5
End: 6

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Small Spacecraft Propulsion Systems 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)

CU Aerospace (CUA) proposes the continued development of a Fiber-fed Pulsed Plasma Thruster (FPPT) that will enable cis-lunar and deep space missions for small satellites. While classic PPT technology is mature, it has historically been limited by its propellant load to precision pointing and small delta-V applications. A recent thruster advancement by CUA, Monofilament Vaporization Propulsion (MVP), adapted extrusion 3D printing technology to feed polymer propellant fiber to a resistojet thrust chamber. FPPT leverages this advancement by feeding PTFE fiber to its discharge region, enabling class-leading PPT propellant throughput and variable exposed fuel area. An innovative, highly parallel ceramic capacitor bank dramatically lowers system specific mass. FPPT is inherently safe; its non-pressurized, non-toxic, inert propellant and construction materials minimize range safety concerns. The Phase I effort accumulated more than 582,000 pulses, with thrust-stand measured Ibits from 0.057 – 0.241 mN-s at 960 – 2400 s specific impulse, representing a dramatic enhancement from state-of-art PPT technology. A Phase II 1U FPPT thruster will provide 2200 – 4900 N-s total impulse, enabling 0.4 – 1.0 km/s delta-V for a 5 kg CubeSat.  A 1U design variation with 590 g propellant enables as much as ~10,000 N-s and 2 km/s for a 5 kg CubeSat.  Advancing the technology to a 2U form factor increases propellant mass to 1.4 kg and delta-V to 10.7 km/s for an 8 kg CubeSat. CUA anticipates delivering to NASA a life-tested flight-like > 2,000 N-s 1U integrated system by the end of Phase II including the advanced thruster head with igniter system, PTFE fiber feed system, power processing unit, and control electronics.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Historically, pulsed plasma systems have targeted small delta-V applications such as ACS. With the demonstrated high performance of CUA's FPPT (Isp up to 2400 seconds) and its innovative propellant feed and storage system, FPPT exceeds the goals of the Z8.01 topic and outperforms previous state of the art PPT systems, as well as newer technologies. With an anticipated > 2,000 N-s total impulse from a 1U system, large orbit transfers and even inclination changes of tens of degrees are now available to smaller satellites. The intrinsic safety of FPPT and its inert, unpressurized PTFE propellant position it as a prime candidate for secondary payload missions where costs and logistics are dominated by range safety concerns. The solid propellant has no handling, storage, or operational restrictions. The ease of handling and storage for the solid propellant can extend operation to planetary missions with no additional monitoring or controls. FPPT system unit costs are anticipated to be significantly below competing CubeSat propulsion systems.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Commercial interest in very small satellites continues to grow. In the 1-50 kg satellite sector, launches have shifted from a fairly balanced distribution between civil, government, commercial, and defense (2009-2016) to a distribution dominated by commercial interests. Moving forward, it is more important than ever that these satellites have access to propulsion systems to extend their asset time on orbit. The proposed thruster offers CubeSats and other small satellites a significant propulsion capability with high impulse per unit volume. The FPPT thruster will provide a compact, light-weight, non-hazardous propulsion technology solution that will be made available in a family of sizes that can meet the differing needs of users in DOD, industry, and universities for CubeSat and small-satellite missions. FPPT will require no safety equipment for storage, transportation, integration, and testing, and place no demanding requirements on the launch provider, making it an ideal low-cost solution for industry, research, and academic small-satellite propulsion needs.

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.)
Ablative Propulsion
Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices
Relative Navigation (Interception, Docking, Formation Flying; see also Control & Monitoring; Planetary Navigation, Tracking, & Telemetry)
Spacecraft Design, Construction, Testing, & Performance (see also Engineering; Testing & Evaluation)
Spacecraft Main Engine

Form Generated on 03-05-18 17:24