With potential to increase the first-stage thrust, specific impulse, and total impulse, this technology will have broad applicability to many future NASA applications. NASA is heavily invested in the budding smallsat field, which gives a great number of small businesses, universities, and research organizations affordable access to space. Improved propulsion stages are critical to allow for launch of more smallsats, more often, and for a lower cost. NASA seeks to use the launch of small satellites targeted in this proposal for myriad applications including rendezvous and docking, in-space assembly CubeSats, critical inspections of primary assets (space telescopes, ISS, re-entry spacecraft, etc.), interplanetary missions, and formation flying. Most of these applications require in-space propulsion that is enabled through the proposed hazard mitigation picosatellite deployer SAF-POD. Upon qualification, the SAF-POD can be included on any CubeSat deployment mission, drastically increasing the launch options of CubeSats with propulsion stages or other hazardous features. Presently, most CubeSats are limited to LEO with no capability for orbit maintenance, collision avoidance maneuvers, or de-orbit disposal maneuvers.
With potential to increase the first-stage thrust, specific impulse, and total impulse, the proposed technology for smallsat launches will have broad applicability to many future military and commercial space applications. The military has a strong interest in CubeSat technologies for applications that improve battlefield communications, space weather monitoring to mitigate blackouts, and Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT). Additionally, the DoD is very interested in quick-turn "Operationally Responsive" space applications, which would benefit from the versatility provided by the improved first-stage propulsion and hazard-mitigation CubeSat SAF-POD deployer proposed for this project. Commercial space launches of smallsats have been on the rise in recent years, with launch services being provided by entities such as Spaceflight Services, ISL, and GAUSS. These companies are in a prime position to benefit from the launch and deployment technologies being developed in this program.