Resonating Nitrous Oxide Thruster

Period of Performance: 01/01/2006 - 12/31/2006

$70K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

AeroAstro Corporation
20145 Ashbrook Place
Ashburn, VA 20147
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Abstract

AeroAstro proposes decomposing nitrous oxide (N2O) as an alternative propellant to existing spacecraft propellants. Decomposing N2O can be used as either a high Isp, hot-gas monopropellant or as a low Isp, cold gas for ACS thrusters. AeroAstro further proposes to use an innovative technique to achieve N2O decomposition: gasdynamic resonance. Gasdynamic resonance will elevate the N2O to the activation temperatures required for exothermic decomposition, allowing monopropellant operation without the difficulties of a catalyst. One of the challenges of long-duration space exploration systems is finding a propellant for microspacecraft that is safe, reliable, robust, and performs better than current propulsion systems. N2O can replace both hot-gas propellants such as hydrazine and cold-gas ACS systems such as nitrogen or isobutane. N2O is non-toxic, has a low freezing point (-91oC), and stores as a liquid. N2O is also a byproduct of the catalysis of ammonia, a main effluent of waste-water recycling systems for long-duration manned space missions. The anticipated results of this effort are data demonstrating the operating parameters of resonating N2O, and a dual-mode thruster design capable of both hot-gas and cold-gas operation. Phase II activity will evolve the design of the dual-mode thruster and demonstrate operation over a range of conditions.