NASA is seeking propulsive capability for SmallSats and modular CubeSats for several lunar, interplanetary, and deep space missions. Because of their small size, CubeSats can be transported into orbit, using excess capacity of large launch vehicles ridesharing as secondary payloads. A downside of ridesharing is that satellites are often released into unfavorable trajectories/orbits that require high-precision and high-thrust chemical propulsion capability for orbital changes and other maneuvers. In the Phase I effort, a 5N low-cost ASCENT thruster was developed, and a propulsion module that included thrusters for both high-thrust and also low thrust with higher specific impulse in a dual mode propulsion system was designed. The focus of the Phase II effort is to develop a flight design for the 5N thruster and to design, fabricate, test, and deliver propellant tanks, manifold, and propulsion controller for a prototype flight unit propulsion module. The 5N thrusters will be tested to enable reaching TRL-6, and the CubeSat dual mode propulsion system will be designed, built, and tested. Georgia Tech will support the overall effort to design, build, and test a CubeSat propulsion system for performing impulsive maneuvers on small spacecraft. Georgia Tech will use its heritage CubeSat propulsion system experience and make limited changes as necessary to satisfy the unique dual mode requirements. This activity includes detailed design, fabrication, and delivery of two mechanical units: a structural test (burst) unit and a prototype field unit.
The Phase II project will provide a dual mode green propulsion system for a technology demonstrator mission. PLASMA’s 100 mN thruster will be creating flight heritage and will be a product for commercial and government buyers. A flight design 5N thruster will be made commercially available. NASA applications include any satellite requiring attitude and orbit control, reaction control, formation flying, and controlled reentry.
There are tremendous commercial applications for STTR dual mode green propulsion system, 100 mN thruster and 5N thruster. Applications include all commercial and government satellites requiring attitude and orbit control, reaction control, formation flying, controlled reentry, and military applications such as divert and attitude control.