Phase Four and Impulse Space to Collaborate on Multi-Mode Propulsion

Multi-Mode propulsion enables new mission capabilities
 for the commercial in-space mobility market

Phase Four’s RF Thruster operating on a nitrogen-oxygen blend (Image Credit: Phase Four)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Phase Four PR) — Phase Four, the creator of the radio-frequency thruster (RF Thruster) for satellite propulsion, announced today that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Impulse Space, a Space 2.0 pioneer providing agile, economical last-mile space payload delivery capabilities. The companies seek to explore and collaborate on opportunities to develop and market multi-mode propulsion capabilities that may be employed by future commercial space vehicles. The companies will evaluate the performance of Phase Four’s propellant-agnostic RF Thruster on green propellants of interest.

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ESA Helps Start-ups Reach for the Stars

PARIS (ESA PR) — Four entrepreneurial small companies have won the chance to learn from senior figures at ESA and satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space, following an ESA-backed competition.

ESA is boosting the commercialisation of space by helping entrepreneurs to gain access to large manufacturers and to share expertise.

Representatives from nine start-up companies pitched their space-based ideas to the manufacturer during a recent event. They received one-to-one expert feedback on becoming a partner, supplier or client to Thales Alenia Space.

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ESA Explores Greener Way to Get Satellites Moving

A sustained test firing of a ‘green’ satellite thruster at Poland’s Institute of Aviation. (Credit: IIA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — A sustained test firing of a ‘green’ satellite thruster at Poland’s Institute of Aviation, intended as a future alternative to today’s hydrazine-based apogee engines, typically used by telecommunication satellites to manoeuvre into their final geostationary orbits.

Today hydrazine is the most common propellant employed by thrusters aboard satellites: it is highly energetic in nature but also toxic and corrosive, as well as dangerous to handle and store.

ESA initiated the Green Liquid Apogee Engine for Future Spacecraft project, GRACE, to evaluate more environmentally friendly thruster options, with testing culminating in a sustained 60-second thruster firing.

GRACE assessed various options, finding the most effective bipropellant combination used ‘high test peroxide’ (HTP) as oxidiser – a much purer version of the same chemical used to bleach hair, which is split into oxygen and water steam using a catalyst – plus TMPDA fuel.

This was a nearly all-Polish project, supported through ESA’s Polish Industry Incentive. Poland’s Institute of Aviation oversaw management, design and testing, with Jakusz providing the HTP, WB Electronics, represented by Flytronic manufacturing most thruster components. Thales Alenia Space in the UK provided requirements and guidelines for design and testing – including the provision of a 500 Newton kerosene-powered thruster, used as a model for the GRACE demonstrator.

“The programme successfully demonstrated a robust catalyst bed capable of sustaining a minute’s continuous firing,” notes ESA propulsion engineer Ferran Valencia Bel.

”GRACE’s success demonstrates Poland’s technical excellence in the area of rocket propulsion, part of a larger ESA effort to put the space industry onto a more sustainable footing, finding non-toxic alternatives to legacy chemicals and materials.” 

Phase Four Signs Contract with NASA to Vet Propulsion System for Upcoming Smallsat Missions

Thruster (Credit: Phase Four)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Phase Four PR) — Phase Four, a provider of electric radio frequency (RF) thrusters for in-space propulsion, today announced that NASA has purchased one of Phase Four’s second-generation RF thrusters to vet its capabilities for small satellite propulsion.

The Phase Four thruster is part of an Integrated Propulsion Assembly (IPA) that contains: propellant storage and management, engine control electronics, power processing, and a thruster in one integrated solution. NASA will utilize the P4 propulsion solution to gain operational flight experience that demonstrates Phase Four’s capability to meet NASA’s upcoming small satellite mission goals. The IPA will be delivered to NASA in 2019.

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World-first Firing of Air-breathing Electric Thruster

Air-breathing ion thruster (Credit: ESA/Sitael)

PARIS (ESA PR) — In a world-first, an ESA-led team has built and fired an electric thruster to ingest scarce air molecules from the top of the atmosphere for propellant, opening the way to satellites flying in very low orbits for years on end.

ESA’s GOCE gravity-mapper flew as low as 250 km for more than five years thanks to an electric thruster that continuously compensated for air drag. However, its working life was limited by the 40 kg of xenon it carried as propellant – once that was exhausted, the mission was over.
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NASA Microthrusters Achieve Success on ESA’s LISA Pathfinder

An artist's concept of the European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board. (Credit: ESA)
An artist’s concept of the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board. (Credit: ESA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A next-generation technology demonstration mission has just passed a big milestone.

The Space Technology 7 Disturbance Reduction System (ST7-DRS) is a system of thrusters, advanced avionics and software managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. It has been flying on the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, which launched from Kourou, French Guiana on Dec. 3, 2015 GMT (Dec. 2 PST). As of Oct. 17, the system had logged roughly 1,400 hours of in-flight operations and met 100 percent of its mission goals.

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Tethers Unlimited Signs Contracts to Deliver HYDROS Water-Propelled Thrusters

HYDROS thruster (Credit: Tethers Unlimited)
HYDROS thruster (Credit: Tethers Unlimited)

BOTHELL, Wash. (Tethers Unlimited PR) — Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) announced that it has signed a Public-Private Partnership with NASA to deliver a HYDROS™ propulsion system for a CubeSat mission. Concurrently, TUI has signed an associated contract to provide three HYDROS thrusters sized for Millennium Space Systems’ (MSS) ALTAIR™ class microsatellites to support three different flight missions. Total contract value for the two efforts is $2.2M.

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Orion Propulsion Joins Boeing Ares I Team; Companies Sign Mentor Aggreement

ORION PROPULSION PRESS RELEASE

Boeing has announced their Industry Team for the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle Upper Stage Production bid. Orion Propulsion has been revealed as a team member and will supply reaction control system thruster test equipment, tooling, and test support services. Orion will also provide design, fabrication, and testing expertise. In addition, Orion will be working with Boeing’s mentor-protégé program in order to grow as a supplier to both Boeing and NASA.

Orion’s President, Tim Pickens, says, “We are very excited to be part of the Boeing Ares I Team. I think Boeing has chosen team members that are technically savvy and committed to lean manufacturing. As the president of a small business, I appreciate Boeing’s commitment to using innovative and affordable businesses that are eager to meet NASA’s needs in a responsive manner. I think Boeing will lead a team of suppliers that provides the best lean production solution and the most cost-effective strategy to support NASA’s CLV goals.”

Orion Propulsion is located outside of Huntsville, Alabama. The company recently signed an agreement to provide thrusters for Bigelow Aerospace’s Sundancer space station.