Multi-mode propulsion fulfills NASA technology needs as outlined in the In-Space Propulsion Technology Roadmap, monopropellant microthrusters and electrospray thrusters, as well as fulfilling needs highlighted by the National Research Council, specifically the need for both chemical and non-chemical propulsion that fulfills the needs for high mobility micro-satellites and extremely fine pointing and positioning for certain astrophysics missions. Research has shown the benefits of multi-mode micropropulsion for NASA missions, including, more efficient small satellite formation flight, optimized attitude control, enhanced transfer rate and useful mass for Jovian missions, more favorable conditions for lunar impact, launch mass savings, and payload mass advantage to GEO.
Multi-mode micropropulsion has potential to meet Air Force needs for fractionated, composable, survivable, autonomous systems, i.e., satellites that can be assembled, tested, and launched within days of operational requirement. Specifically, the large mission design space resulting from ability to select and complete chemical or electric maneuvers at will significantly enhances the capabilities of these 'plug-and-play' satellites. It has potential to impact the exploding small/CubeSat market, an estimated market value of $7.4B, with a predicted 360% increase in launches over the next 5 yrs, and future plans for competing space-based internet constellations. The large mission design space enabled by multi-mode propulsion could be beneficial to this market in that a single, off-the-shelf system is capable of many different types of missions. An entirely new propulsion system would not have to be developed for each mission individually, reducing costs associated with development, testing, and risk.