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Center Independent Research & Development: GSFC IRAD

Development of Cubesat Propulsion Systems

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Image of an example force balance

The overall objective of this IRAD will be to develop a propulsion system that can be cheaply and reliably used for NASA GSFC cubesat missions.  Reliability will be improved by using a force balance that can be used to accurately quantify the thrust from cubesat propulsion systems.   Cost will be reduced by combining innovative combinations of propulsion systems.  At the end of FY2016, a cheap and reliable propulsion system will be tested on the thrust stand, and a plan will be developed to deliver a propulsion system to one of the NASA GSFC cubesat teams. 

While there are many systems that show potential, and GSFC has invested heavily in the development of the George Washington University (GWU) Micro Cathode Arc Thruster (mCAT), there are further developments that need to be made to arrive at a reliable system with high performance that is practical for a cubesat.   One of the primary challenges for propulsion has been the issue of pressurization for a typical propulsion system. 

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Anticipated Benefits

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