The proposed 100-W thruster fills a void between existing micro-propulsion options and existing low power Hall thruster systems. The system provides the benefits of electric propulsion (specific impulse, delta-V) to small, low cost spacecraft, a market which is presently underserved. The proposed 100-W thruster is especially well sized for spacecraft weighing 20 to 200-kg. Integration with nano-spacecraft (<20 kg) is also feasible. The first NASA application could be a small technology satellite demonstration satellite fueled by xenon or iodine propellant. Other near term applications could include drag-makeup and formation flying. The size, low alpha (kg/kW), and simplicity of Hall thrusters make them ideal for many other applications. These include orbit raising and lowering, de-orbiting, station-keeping, inclination changes, and interplanetary transfers. Destinations could include asteroids, comets, dwarf planets, outer planets, etc. In such missions, the thruster could function either by itself or in conjunction with a larger Hall thruster. Still other applications could include a cargo delivery vehicle originating in LEO or at the ISS, or a small electric upper stage.
Hall thrusters are attractive for commercial and military spacecraft due to their high performance, relatively small size, low mass, and relatively low cost. Continuous thrust functions for small, power-limited spacecraft in LEO would include orbit insertion and maintenance, in-space maneuvering, orbit-raising, and de-orbiting. The thruster is appropriate for spacecraft as small as 6 - 12 U in size. Applications for geosynchronous spacecraft would include station-keeping and repositioning. In pulsed mode, the thruster could provide high precision impulse bits for station-keeping, attitude control, precision positioning, and constellation maintenance. An iodine fueled system could provide an "off the shelf" option for operationally responsive spacecraft. The military has a need for satellites that are both operationally responsive to launch command and operationally responsive to the war fighter on-orbit. The ORS office is proposing a paradigm shift from the traditional architecture to a more flexible "plug and play" architecture. For this class of spacecraft, a low power Hall thruster fueled by iodine is very attractive because it can be stored as a solid at low temperature and sub-atmospheric pressure, allowing pre-fueled long term storage of the propulsion system until a responsive space need arises.