Busek Delivers Game Changing CubeSat Thrusters to NASA

100µN electrospray thruster system. (Credit: Busek Co.)
100µN electrospray thruster system. (Credit: Busek Co.)

NATICK, MA (Busek PR) — Satellite propulsion firm Busek Co. Inc. confirms the shipment of its first miniature electrospray small satellite thrusters to NASA.

The modular, 100 micronewton-class thrusters enable new, highly efficient CubeSat maneuvers as well as fine position control for larger spacecraft.

The units were designed and manufactured by Busek for NASA’s Game Changing Development Program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

At a mere 320 grams, and drawing only five Watts of power, the Busek miniature electrospray propulsion thrusters are a form of solar electric propulsion which accelerate tiny amounts of ionic liquid (molten salts) to produce thrust. The system is comprised of the thruster head, electronics, and an unpressurized vessel of inert propellant, all fitting within a 10 cm x 10 cm x 0.33 cm volume. The thruster units on delivery to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, will undergo independent characterization while flight missions are being planned.

“All of Busek’s electrospray thrusters draw upon the flight-qualified designs we developed for the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder Mission (NASA ST -7).” said Nathan Demmons, Director of Busek’s Electrospray Propulsion Team. “In addition to the 100 micronewton-class thrusters being delivered to NASA today, the team here is nearing completion of a millinewton-class thruster system, and even larger systems are in development. These electrospray thruster systems are poised to revolutionize how small spacecraft maneuver and de-orbit” said Demmons.

About Busek: Busek Co. Inc. is an industry leader in the development and manufacture of high performance space propulsion systems. The firm’s spacecraft products span solar electric propulsion technologies such as Hall, electrospray, radio frequency ion, and pulsed plasma thrusters, in addition to green monopropellant thrusters. The firm’s expertise across multiple space propulsion technologies enables it to provide unbiased solutions to best fit customers’ needs.

  • Aerospike

    Computer technology and its miniaturization has advanced to the point that cubesats became possible. With all those new micro thruster developments, a new generation of “full fledged” cubesats will revolutionize how we do things in space. It just will be different from what we imagined in the 1950ies and 60ies, just like the inventors of the very fist, room filling, computers would be totally amazed by our modern smartphones!

    PS: I think there is a typo in this PR where the measurements of the propulsion unit are mentioned: I’m quite sure that should be 10 cm x 10 cm x 3.3 cm, assuming the picture shows a 3U cubesat “frame” behind the thruster.
    0.33 cm would be just 3.3 mm.

  • Vladislaw

    Here is the link for the company.

    “Busek Co. Inc. develops several types of thruster systems for CubeSat and other small spacecraft missions. These include electrospray, micro-resistojet, pulsed plasma, RF ion thruster, and green monopropellant thrusters.For over 25 years, Busek Co. Inc. has been working to develop electric propulsion (EP) for spacecraft culminating in flight demonstration missions on small satellites. The appeal of EP is that it offers exceptional propellant efficiency (compared to traditional chemical propulsion) to give spacecraft the capability of large delta-V maneuvers at the cost of relatively little propellant. Busek is actively miniaturizing electric propulsion systems to the mass, volume, and power consumptions relevant to CubeSat and small spacecraft applications.”